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Book Review

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The Yale Law Journal Company, Inc.




A complete theory of law, writes Ronald Dworkin, tells us what law is and what it ought to be. The current "ruling" theory of law combines legal positivism with utilitarianism: it holds, first, that law is a set of explicitly adopted rules and, second, that law ought to maximize the general welfare. Dworkin rejects both branches of that theory. He argues that law contains "principles" as well as rules and that these principles cannot be traced to any explicit adoption or enactment. Dworkin argues further that the ruling theory neglects moral rights, which must be respected, he claims, even if they do not promote the general welfare. Dworkin then offers an alternative theory of law, founded on the right to be treated as an equal.


Reviewing Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (1977).

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