Hague Journal on the Rule of Law

, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 331–339 | Cite as

The Mythology of (Rule of) Law

  • Veronica L. TaylorEmail author

Peter Fitzpatrick’s The Mythology of Modern Law is a powerful challenge to modern law’s pretentions to being coherent, secular and universal. It came out in 1989 just as the Berlin Wall came down—at precisely the start of a program by the world’s multilateral financial institutions and lead economies to develop positivist, secular and universal ‘rule of law’. The next 30 years were crowded with the actors, aims, activities and institutions deemed necessary for building a ‘developed’ and (presumptively) rule of law-compliant state. Everything from business deregulation and anti-corruption laws; judicial ethics, access to justice and human rights; and laws combatting terrorism and countering violent extremism would be subsumed under the rule of law umbrella.

While Fitzpatrick is still widely read and admired by many socio-legal scholars, his provocative work is part of the scholarship that has been ‘resolutely ignored’ by rule of law promoters. 1 Yet he was prescient in observing that,




  1. Autesserre S (2014) Peaceland: conflict resolution and the everyday politics of international intervention. Problems of international politics series. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. BBC (2019) Hong Kong protests: China says protesters ‘trample rule of law’. Accessed 2 July 2019
  3. Brysk A (2009) Global good Samaritans: human rights as foreign policy. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen PS (1969) Theories of myth. Man N.S. 4:337–353Google Scholar
  5. Deinla I, Taylor VL (2015) Towards peace: rethinking justice and legal pluralism in the Bangsamoro, RegNet Research Paper No. 2015/63.
  6. Eliade M (1965) The myth of the eternal return or cosmos and history. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  7. Fitzpatrick P (1992) The mythology of modern law. Routledge, AbingdonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Humphreys S (2011) Theatre of the rule of law: transnational legal intervention in theory and practice, Cambridge studies in international and comparative law. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Kennedy D (2004) The dark sides of virtue: reassessing international humanitarianism. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Krygier M (2011) Four Puzzles about the rule of law: why, what where? And who cares? (June 18, 2010). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2010-22. In: Fleming JE (ed) Getting to the rule of law, nomos no. 50. New York University Press, New York, pp 64–104
  11. Krygier M (2013) Still a rule of law guy (August 16, 2013). (2013) 34 Recht der Werkelijkheid 1; UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2013-53.
  12. Krygier M (2016) The rule of law: pasts, presents, and two possible futures (May 17, 2016). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 2016-31. And 12 annual review of law and social science, pp 199–229.
  13. Merry E, Davis KE, Kingsbury B (eds) (2015) The quiet power of indicators: measuring governance, corruption, and rule of law. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Pritchett, L, Woolcock M, Andrews M (2010) Capability traps? The mechanisms of persistent implementation failure, CGD Working Article 234. Center for Global Development, Washington D.C.
  15. Reid JP (2004) Rule of law. The jurisprudence of liberty in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalbGoogle Scholar
  16. Simion K, Taylor VL (2015) Professionalizing rule of law: issues and directions. Folke Bernadotte Academy.
  17. Taylor VL (2010) Legal education as development. In: Steele Stacey, Taylor Kathryn (eds) Legal education in Asia: globalization, change and contexts. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon, pp 215–240Google Scholar
  18. Taylor VL (2016) Big rule of law ©®℠™(pat.pending): branding and certifying the business of the rule of law. In: Farrall J, Charlesworth H (eds) Strengthening the rule of law through the UN Security Council. Routledge, AbingdonGoogle Scholar
  19. Taylor VL (2017) Regulatory rule of law. In: Peter D (ed) Regulatory theory: foundations and applications. ANU Press, pp 393–414.
  20. United Nations (2012) Declaration of the high-level meeting of the general assembly on the rule of law at the national and international levels.
  21. World Bank (2017) World development report 2017: governance and the law.
  22. Yangon Stock Exchange (2019).

Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations