Law is a Command of the Sovereign Backed by Sanction: Austinian Command Theory of Law – Revisited

  • Dr. Rajib Hassan
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  • Dr. Rajib Hassan

    Assistant Professor under West Bengal Higher Education Department, Government Centre of Legal Education (Formerly PG Department of Law, Hooghly Mohsin College) Government of West Bengal, Chinsurah, Hooghly, West Bengal, India

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The emergence of positivism in legal philosophy is the consequence of a shift in emphasis from metaphysical to empirical method in the study of theoretical philosophy. It was British philosopher David Hume and French philosopher Auguste Comte who initially devastatingly destroyed the basic assumptions of Natural Law philosophy with imperative view getting upper hand over all other variants of philosophical thought. Friedman classified positivism into Analytical and Pragmatic. Law according to Analytical positivism- is the command of a political authority. John Austin, the celebrated jurist is the classic representative of Analytical positivism. He was a 19th century British legal philosopher who formulated a systematic alternative to both natural law theories of law and utilitarian approaches to law. This approach was termed “Legal Positivism” because it tries to describe “law as it is” in terms of what humans posited or set. Austin’s theory of law is a form of analytical jurisprudence because Austin used ‘analysis’ as the chief instrument for studying law. Austin’s particular theory of law is often called the “command theory of law” because the concept of command lies at its core. Austin said, law is a command of the sovereign, backed by a threat of sanction in the event of non-compliance. Dr. Allen calls his school “Imperative School” for his emphasis on sanction as an important aspect of law.




International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 1, Page 2107 - 2116


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