The question posed in this book is why governments do or do not act according to laws. The traditional answer of jurists has been that law has an autonomous causal efficacy: law rules when actions follow anterior norms; the relation between laws and actions is one of obedience, obligation, or compliance. Contrary to this normative conception, the authors defend a positive interpretation according to which the rule of law results from the strategic choices of relevant actors. Rule of law is just one possible outcome in which political actors process their conflicts using whatever resources they can muster: only when these actors seek to resolve their conflicts by recourse to law, does law rule. What distinguishes “rule of law” as an institutional equilibrium from “rule by law” is the distribution of power. The former emerges when no one group is strong enough to dominate the others and when the many use institutions to promote their interests. Conflicts between rule of majority and rule of law are simply conflicts in which actors use either votes or laws as their instruments of power.
José María Maravall is Academic Director and Professor of Political Sociology at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. He is the author of Dictatorship and Political Dissent (1979), The Transition to Democracy in Spain(1982), and Regimes, Politics, and Markets (1997).
Adam Przeworski is Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Politics at New York University. He is coauthor of Democracy and Development(Cambridge, 2000) and Sustainable Democracy (Cambridge, 1995) and coeditor of Democracy, Accountability, and Representation(Cambridge, 1999).
Together, Professors Maravall and Przeworski also coauthored (with L. C. Bresser Pereira) Economic Reforms of New Democracies (Cambridge, 1993).