Of Kings and Dirty Rascals: The Struggle for Democracy

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Queen's Law Journal. Volume 9 (1984), p. 273-292.


Ronald Dworkin is the king of the jurisprudential castle. Having dislodged H.L.A. Hart in the early 70s with a 'naturalist' putsch,l he has managed to retain his pre-eminent position in the face of a constant wave of assaults by a variety of dirty rascals. His power base comprises a small cluster of traditional ideas which he draws on and applies in an almost infinitely resourceful and imaginative way. His claim to originality, if any, lies in his own particular blend and defence of those ideas rather than in their intrinsic thrust or pedigree. Indeed, the glamour and longevity of his reign is, at least in part, due to the opportunities his foes have provided him to develop, strengthen and consolidate his theory. His most important contributions to the jurisprudential tradition have been made in these altercations. His especial talent lies in his uncanny ability to turn the apparently debilitating attack to his own advantage. Few can have owed so much to their aspiring usurpers. In short, he is a formidable figure who stands colossus-like astride the domain of contemporary jurisprudence.

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