Neglecting the history of the Rule of Law: (Unintended) Conceptual eugenics

Paul Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this short paper I provide a justificatory argument for the importance of the endeavour exemplified by the papers that comprise the remainder of this special issue. I suggest that consideration and assessment of the origins of the concept of the Rule of Law not only matters, but also that it is a practice that is often neglected. Further, I suggest our failure to take account of the origins of the Rule of Law—by continuing to simply innovate around the idea of the contemporary understanding of the concept—limits the concept’s future development and will, potentially, not reflect faithfully the ideas from which our contemporary understanding of the concept is ultimately derived. As a result of this failure, we risk the (unintentional) imposition of a selective approach in the interpretation and application of the concept of the Rule of Law in the future. Increasing our focus on the origins of the Rule of Law will not only illuminate the rationale for and behind the operation of the concept, but it will also expose aspects of the concept that are no longer considered or included—in contemporary conceptions of the idea—and will ensure our future solutions are not curtailed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
JournalHague Journal on the Rule of Law
Early online date11 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 May 2017


  • Rule of Law
  • history
  • origin
  • path dependence


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