Taking the Rule of Law’s Opposition Seriously

Nick Cheesman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    What does it mean to study the rule of law from conditions of its absence? In this response to symposium commentators on Opposing the Rule of Law I suggest that to do so is to situate the rule of law in relation to other ideas without relativizing it; to take seriously questions of what animates practices in its stead, including the question of what ideas might plausibly oppose it. Adopting this mode of inquiry into courts in Myanmar, I perceived that the rule of law is not compatible with law and order, as commonly assumed, but is its asymmetrical opposite. Competing notions of order inhabit each, one endogenous, the other imposed. While the rule of law pushes towards political equality, law and order reveals in itself a deep affiliation with inequality. Opposing the two dispels the illusion that law and order is elementary to the rule of law. It opens up alternative ways of thinking and talking about both that might better equip scholars to discharge a special responsibility: not to research and write in ways that can be readily interpolated into projects for the delivery of the rule of law to places where it is absent, but to compel different types of political action for the rule of law, by provincializing it.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-44
    Number of pages16
    JournalHague Journal on the Rule of Law
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


    Dive into the research topics of 'Taking the Rule of Law’s Opposition Seriously'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this