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On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521604659
ISBN-10: 0521604656
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Concise but comprehensive...For anyone seeking to evaluate the multitude of public statements or academic works that promote, critique, or disparage the rule of law, this book is an excellent point of departure for that evaluation." Law and Politics Review

"Terrific. Brian Tamanaha has written a book that should educate not only every student and layperson who reads it, but also scholars who wrongly think there is nothing new to say about the rule of law... I hope it gets the wide readership it deserves." Sanford Levinson, Professor of Law, University of Texas Law school, author of Wrestling with Diversity

"[Tamanaha]'s book presents a brief and clear introductory history and analysis that defends the coherence and value of the rule of law and that gives a sense of its global reach, limitations, and prospects...analyses are intelligent and fair-minded...Tamanaha is clearly a sophisticated institutionalist, and On the Rule of Law offers valuable insights." - Perspectives on Politics, Stephen G. Englemann, University of Illinois at Chicago

"Brian Z. Tamanaha has written a clear, concise, accurate, and convincing history of the triumph of the rule of law, beginning in Greece and Rome, continuing through the Middle Ages, developing through the liberal enlightenment, expanding after the Second World War and Cold War victories and resisting the retrograde challenges of communism, fascism, and other trendy authoritarian or relativist ideas." - Mortimer Sellers, University of Baltimore School of Law

Book Description

This book explores the history, politics, and theory surrounding the rule of law ideal. The author outlines the concerns of Western conservatives about the decline of the rule of law and suggests reasons why the radical Left have promoted this decline. The strengths and weaknesses of two basic theoretical streams of the rule of law are then explored. The book examines the rule of law on a global level, and concludes by answering the question of whether the rule of law is a universal human good.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521604656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521604659
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
We're hearing quite a bit these days about 'judicial activism', so it would be nice if we could be clear just what we mean by the 'rule of law'.

Unfortunately, when we get down to specifics, the term means different things to different people. Probably no one anywhere seriously contends as a matter of principle that e.g. judges should render strictly subjective opinions. But in practice, one person's law is another person's bias. (And contrary to the rhetoric of the loudest voices in such debates, it's usually because there are two competing principles genuinely at issue, not because one side doesn't care about principles at all.)

So it's a good idea to take a step back and ask, a bit more abstractly, exactly what we mean by the 'rule of law'. And that's where this slim but information-dense volume comes in.

Brian Tamanaha takes just about the only course it's possible to take in defining such a nebulous concept: the historical approach. By way of putting salt on the tail of the ideal of the rule of law, he traces the development of the concept from ancient Greece to the present day.

If you think that sounds like a big job for just 141 pages of text (plus notes and bibliography), you're right. In fact, one of the most impressive things about this deceptively small book is the amount of erudition Tamanaha manages to pack economically into its pages. There's quite a lot buried between the lines here, and sweating this baby down to such a manageable length (while keeping it readable) must have taken some real editing.

For it _is_ eminently readable, and it does provide a thorough, if brief, tour of the development of the rule-of-law ideal in Western civilization.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book very informative. Tamanaha goes clearly though the different definitions for 'rule-of-law' and how they differ. The parts that I knew a little bit about seemed quite accurate. The book is short but strikingly comprehensive.
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Format: Paperback
The rule of law is an important legal and political concept that has a long history, and it has been the expounded in a variety of theoretical formulations. Moreover, the rule of law is an important legal and political concept around the world today.

The author provides a very good overview of the history of the rule of law concept, and does a very good job of describing various theories of the rule of law concept. The author's historical overview gives the reader important factual background and political and social context to better understand how the rule of law concept has developed, and been invoked and used throughout history. The author's description of various theories of the rule of law concept is very informative and helps the reader to understand significant differences in the meaning given to the rule of law concept by different thinkers, different cultures, and different types of government. Furthermore, by comparing and contrasting the different theories of the rule of law, the author provides the reader with interesting insights into the meaning and significance of the different theories of the rule of law concept.

The author's discussion about the politics associated with different rule of law theories is not as strong as his historical survey of the rule of law concept, or his analysis about the competing theories about the rule of law concept. And, the author's discussion about the rule of law concept in international law has an uneven quality, marred by the author's tendency to criticize the United States and other Western countries for perceived failings in international law with little or no effort to criticize other countries for their role in such perceived failings.
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