The Rule of Law, Democracy and the Role of Context

Instructor: Uday Mehta
Offered by Macaulay Honors College
Tuesdays, 9:00 – 11:40am
Macaulay Honors College, Classroom 204

The rule of law has been a central feature of democratic theory and practice every since the 17th century, when John Locke forcefully articulated many of the ideas we continue to associate with democratic governance. Law was and is a means of organizing power, and yet limiting its exercise in a way that comports with the fundamental democratic idea that the people are always sovereign. This dual role of both organizing and limiting power has been the centerpiece of the “empire of law” for the past several centuries.  It was crucial to the founding of the American Republic, as it was to all other democratic regimes.

But for law to be effective and for it to discharge these dual roles it has to engage with a context that is not itself entirely a product of law alone.  People’s values, their social context, their religious beliefs and many other considerations intersect with how law functions. The rule of law is thus an abstract value and something deeply entangled with specific contexts.

This course will explore ideas about the rule of law, democracy and the various contexts that intersect with them. It will draw primarily from the British, American, Indian and South African experiences, along with Islamic understanding of law.

Course Codes:

MHC 341 | CRN 35436