Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Mortimer Sellers, Stephan Kirste

Austin, John

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6730-0_583-1


John Austin (1790–1859), an English legal theorist, is considered by many to be the creator of the school of analytical jurisprudence, as well as, more specifically, the approach to law known as “legal positivism.” Austin’s particular command theory of law has been subject to pervasive criticisms, but it still has its attractions, in part due to its simple model of law, and in part due to how the model’s seeming emphasis on power and authority connects it with modern cynical or worldly (“realistic”) perspectives.


Austin’s theorizing about law was novel at four different levels of generality. First, he was arguably the first writer to approach the theory of law analytically (as contrasted with approaches to law more grounded in history or sociology, or arguments about law that were secondary to more general moral and political theories).

Second, Austin’s work should be seen against a background where most English judges and commentators saw common-law reasoning...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law and PhilosophyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Gianfrancesco Zanetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LawUniversità degli Studi di Modena e Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly