Jane Austen on persuasion and authority

Abstract

Taking the novels of Jane Austen as an exploration of Joseph Raz's problem of authority in law, this paper explores whether a positivist account of authority maps onto Austen's account of human experience. While both Austen and Raz agree that the source of authority cannot itself be an exclusionary reason, Austen's novels suggest that social role and emotional connection play a bigger role in evaluating authority than Raz's account would suggest. Most notably, Austen's characterization of her heroine Fanny Price suggests that a non-positivist stance toward authority may generate more moral criticism of law than a positivist approach.

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