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“Why should I obey the law?” is the central question of political theory. “What is law?” is the central question of legal theory. The questions, Philip Soper says, can he answered only when they are connected. In this book he sets forth a theory of the nature of law that explains why law imposes an obligation to obey.
Soper argues that a legal—as opposed to coercive—system must aim at serving the interests of the community; that necessary to legal systems is the claim by those in authority that they act in the interest of all. He shows how this official claim of justice explains existing concepts of law as well as the obligation to obey. Finally he examines implications of this definition of law for some jurisprudential puzzles—for example, the distinction between the court as lawfinder and the legislature as lawmaker; and the idea of natural, preexisting rights.