Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This almost 3,600-word entry deals with the concept of law in modern political philosophy. Law is defined as "all the rules of conduct and organization that form a unity concerning the regulation of fundamental relations for the life and survival of society." The entry considers law as the chief means by which a ruling power exercises its will upon the community.
The entry presents two main ideas about law that run through modern political philosophy: first, the connection between law and state power; second, the supremacy of law. As for the former, the entry starts with Hobbes, who can be considered the first theorist of the modern state. He treated the passage from the state of nature to the civil state. After Hobbes, Locke dealt with the similar passage from the "natural law" of the state of nature to the law of civil society. In contrast with Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau maintained that the state of nature has no law and no effect on subsequent civil law: according to him, the law of civil society originates from the social contract. The entry continues with Marx, for whom law and the state were part of the "superstructure" resting on a base of economic (material) reality. Weber considered law as a form of power.
The second main idea in the entry is the supremacy of law. Hobbes praised legislative (written) law over and against the common law. Locke stated that law must be supreme because fixed and sure laws were the main remedy against the abuse of power. According to Rousseau, the "general will" (the common will of the community-the will of all, acting not selfishly but as members of the community) can be expressed only through general rules. Weber maintained that modern state is based on legislative law, which has taken the place of the common law.