Law and Coercion



Though political philosophers often presuppose that coercive enforcement is fundamental to law, many legal philosophers have doubted this. This article explores doubts of two types. Some legal philosophers argue that given an adequate account of coercion and coerciveness, the enforcement of law in actual legal systems will generally not count as coercive. Others accept that actual legal systems enforce many laws coercively, but they deny that law has a necessary connection with coercion. There can be individual laws that lack coercive sanctions, and it is at least conceptually possible for there to be a legal system that lacks coercive enforcement altogether. This article then examines why most political philosophers and some legal philosophers have been reluctant to treat the conceptual possibility of non-coercive law as significant.