WHY IS LAW OBEYED?
THE analysis of the nature of law which we have just made naturally prompts the enquiry: Why is law obeyed in any community? To this question have been given answers almost as diverse as the theories that have been put forward concerning the nature of law itself.
We see, for instance, that the element of compulsion enters into nearly all the definitions of law that we examined in the preceding chapter. It will be recalled that Austin erects his theory on the corner-stone of command by a political superior to subordinate political inferiors. He distinguishes between general and particular commands. The latter are the arbitrary and irregular behests decreed ad hoc to specific individuals, as when, for an example, a footpad points a gun at a person or group of persons and issues the peremptory order: 'Your money or your life, guv'nors!' This type of command lacks the virtue of being applied to the bulk of a politically organised society of persons by another or others having lawful authority so to apply it. Such particular commands cannot, therefore, be law. But a general command issuing from a properly constituted authority to whom or to which the majority of a given community habitually render obedience under pain of punishment, is a rule of law. This sanction, Austin explains, while being of the essence of any law, need not depend upon its quality or even quantity in order to compel obedience from those subject to the law: 'The smallest chance of incurring the smallest evil' is enough.1 Austin distinctly excludes the violence of the motive to comply. It is sufficient if it regularly obliges the generality of people to a line of conduct.
To the whole of this theory Bentham adds the significant____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Nature of African Customary Law. Contributors: T. Olawale Elias - Author. Publisher: Manchester University Press. Place of publication: Manchester, England. Publication year: 1956. Page number: 56.
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