Rule of law  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The rule of law (also known as nomocracy) is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to arbitrary decisions by individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behavior, including behavior of government officials. The phrase can be traced back to 16th century England, and it was popularized in the 19th century by British jurist A. V. Dicey. The concept was familiar to ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, who wrote "Law should govern".

Rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law, including law makers themselves. In this sense, it stands in contrast to an autocracy, collective leadership, dictatorship, or oligarchy where the rulers are held above the law (which is not necessary by definition but which is typical). Lack of the rule of law can be found in democracies and dictatorships, and can happen because of neglect or ignorance of the law, corruption, or lack of corrective mechanisms for administrative abuse, such as an independent judiciary with a rule-of-law culture, a practical right to petition for redress of grievances, or elections.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rule of law" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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