Guide The Decline of Liberalism as an Ideology: Volume 5 (International Library of Sociology)

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Table of contents



Liberal internationalism, in all its varied configurations, has provided templates for cooperation in the face of the grand forces of modernity. To do so again, the liberal international project will need to rethink its vision. When the nineteenth century began, liberal democracy was a new and fragile political experiment, a political glimmering within a wider world of monarchy, autocracy, empire and traditionalism.

Two hundred years later, at the end of the twentieth century, liberal democracies, led by the western Great Powers, dominated the world—commanding 80 per cent of global GNP. Liberal internationalism has risen and fallen and evolved. But its general logic is captured in a cluster of five convictions. Trade and exchange are understood to be constituents of modern society, and the connections and gains that flow from deep engagement and integration foster peace and political advancement. An open international order facilitates economic growth, encourages the flow of knowledge and technology, and draws states together.

Second, there is a commitment to some sort of loosely rules-based set of relations. Rule and institutions facilitate cooperation and create capacities for states to make good on their domestic obligations. This does not necessarily mean alliances or a formal system of collective security, but states within the order affiliate in ways designed to increase their security. Power politics can be tamed—at least to some extent—and states can build stable relations around the pursuit of mutual gains.

Fifth and finally, there is an expectation that a liberal international order will move states in a progressive direction, defined in terms of liberal democracy. The order provides institutions, relationships, and rights and protections that allow states to grow and advance at home. It is a sort of mutual aid and protection society. Seen in this way, a liberal international order can take various forms. It can be more or less global or regional in scope. The early postwar western liberal order was primarily an Atlantic regional community, while the post-Cold War liberal system has had a wider global reach.

A liberal international order can be more or less organized around a hegemonic state—that is, it can be more or less hierarchical in character.

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It can be more or less embodied in formal agreements and governance institutions. Overall, liberal internationalism can be more or less open, rules-based and progressively oriented. Taken as a whole, liberal internationalism offers a vision of order in which sovereign states—led by liberal democracies—cooperate for mutual gain and protection within a loosely rules-based global space. Glimmerings of this vision emerged in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, triggered by Enlightenment thinking and the emergence of industrialism and modern society. Over the next century, a variety of economic, political and intellectual developments set the stage for the reorganization of relations among western states.

Led by Britain, these states entered into a period of industrial growth and expanding trade. Political reform—and the revolutions of —reflected the rise of and struggles for liberal democracy and constitutionalism, the growth of the middle and working classes, and the creation of new political parties arrayed across the ideological spectrum from conservative to liberal and socialist. Nationalism emerged and became tied to the building of modern bureaucratic states.

Britain signalled a new orientation towards the world economy with the repeal of the Corn Laws. Nationalism was matched with new forms of internationalism—in law, commerce and social justice. Peace movements spread across the western world. A new era of European industrial-age imperialism began, as Britain, France and other European states competed for colonial prizes. In this setting, liberal internationalism emerged as a way of thinking about western and world order. It began as a variety of scattered nineteenth-century internationalist ideas and movements.

Liberal ideas in Britain began with Adam Smith's writings in the late eighteenth century and continued with thinkers such as Richard Cobden and John Bright in the nineteenth. A general view emerged—captured, for example, in the writings of Walter Bagehot and many others—that there was a developmental logic to history, a movement from despotic states to more rules-based and constitutional ones. Kant's ideas on republicanism and perpetual peace offered hints of an evolutionary logic in which liberal democracies would emerge and organize themselves within a wider political space.

Liberal internationalism and world order

Ideas of contracts, rights and the law were developed by thinkers from John Locke to John Stuart Mill. The connections between domestic liberalism and liberal internationalism are multifaceted, and they have evolved over the last two centuries. It is hard to see a distinctive or coherent liberal international agenda in the nineteenth century. At this time, such notions were primarily manifest in ideas about world politics that emerged from thinkers and activists committed to liberalism within countries—in ideas about liberalization of trade, collective security, arbitration of disputes and so forth.

What emerges during this era is a sense of an international sphere of action that was opening up within the liberal democratic world, and a conviction that collective efforts could and should be made to manage this expanding international space. In the twentieth century there emerged a much more full-blown sense of liberal internationalism, understood as a set of prescriptions for organizing and reforming the world in such a way as to facilitate the pursuit of liberal democracy at home. In the hands of F. Roosevelt and his generation after , liberal internationalism became to an even greater extent an agenda for building an international community within which liberal democracies could be stabilized and protected.

In this way, liberal internationalism offered a vision of a reformed and managed western—and, eventually, global—order that would provide the organizational principles, institutions and capacities to negotiate the international contingencies and dislocations that threaten the domestic pursuit of liberal democracy. Liberal internationalism emerged after the Second World War as an organizing vision for the western-led order.

As in , so after the United States used its postwar position to lead in the building of a postwar order. But along the way, liberal internationalism took on a new shape and character—and with the rise of the Cold War, a US-led liberal hegemonic order emerged.

Law and Ideology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

In the age of Wilson, liberal internationalism was a relatively simply vision. International order was to be organized around a collective security system in which sovereign states would act together to uphold a system of territorial peace. The Wilsonian vision was undergirded by open trade, national self-determination, and the expectation of the continuing spread of liberal democracy. As Wilson himself put it: The dramatic upheavals of the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Cold War set the stage for another American-led attempt to build a liberal order.

A new moment to remake the world had arrived. Basic questions about power, order and modernity had to be rethought. From the s onwards, the viability of western liberal democracy was itself uncertain. The violence and instabilities of the s and s forced liberal internationalists—and indeed everyone else—to reassess their ideas and agendas.

The First World War was a jolt to the optimistic narratives of western civilization and progress. But FDR and his generation—facing the even more frightening rise of fascism and totalitarianism, followed by the horrors of total war, the Holocaust and the advent of atomic weapons, not to mention the collapse of the world economy—seemed to face a far more formidable, even existential array of threats. Modernity itself showed its dark side. In this setting, FDR and his contemporaries found themselves advancing a new—more world-weary—vision of liberal international order.

Paradoxically, it became both more universalistic in its vision and more deeply tied to American hegemonic power. In the s, liberal internationalism was reframed. The liberal internationalism of the Woodrow Wilson era was built around civilizational, racial and cultural hierarchies.

It was a creature of the western white man's world. It was a narrow type of principled internationalism. Wilson-era liberal internationalism did not challenge European imperialism or racial hierarchies. British liberals explicitly defended empire and continued to see the world in racial and civilizational terms. The s saw a shift or reformulation of these ideas.

Universal rights and protections became more central to the ideological vision. FDR's Four Freedoms of speech and worship, from want and fear were the defining vision for this new conception of liberal international order. The postwar order was to be a security community—a global space where liberal democracies joined together to build a cooperative order that enshrined basic human rights and social protections. At the same time, these universal rights and protections were advanced and legitimated in terms of the American-led Cold War struggle.

The United States would be the hegemonic sponsor and protector of the liberal order. It would have rules, institutions, bargains and full-service political functions. To be inside this order was to enjoy trade, expanding growth, and tools for managing economic stability. Inside, it was warm; outside, it was cold.

Countries would be protected in alliance partnerships and an array of functional organizations. In other words, in the postwar era, liberal internationalism became both more universal in its ideas and principles and more tied to an American-led political order. Over the Cold War decades, American-led liberal internationalism emerged as a distinctive type of order. The United States came to take on a variety of functions and responsibilities. It came to have a direct role in running the order—and it also found itself increasingly tied to the other states within the order.

It upheld the rules and institutions, fostered security cooperation, led the management of the world economy, and championed shared norms and cooperation among the western-oriented liberal democracies. In the management of the world economy, the Bretton Woods international financial institutions became tied to the American market and dollar. American liberal hegemony, as a type of international order, had several key characteristics.

First, it was built around open multilateral trade. In many ways, this was the key vision of the postwar American architects of liberal order. During the war, the question was debated: This was the era when most of the world's regions were divided into imperial zones, blocs and spheres of influence. The American strategic judgement was that, on the contrary, the postwar world would need to be open and accessible to the United States.

Out of these worries, the United States launched its efforts to open the world economy and build institutions and partnerships that would establish a durably open global order. International agreements, embodied in the Bretton Woods system, were designed to give governments greater ability to regulate and manage economic openness to ensure that it was reconciled with domestic economic stability and policies in pursuit of full employment.

The visionary goal was a middle ground between openness and stability. Free trade was essential for the sort of economic recovery and growth that would support centrist and progressive postwar political leadership in the United States and Europe. But trade and exchange would need to be reconciled with government efforts to ensure economic stability and the security of workers and the middle class.

Social and economic security went hand in hand with national security. Third, the postwar liberal order was built around new and permanent international institutions. To a greater extent than in Wilson's day, post liberal internationalists sought to build order around a system of multilateral governance. This was a vision of intergovernmentalism more than supranationalism. Governments would remain the primary source of authority. But governments would organize their relations around permanent regional and global institutions. They would conduct relations on multilateral platforms—bargaining, consulting, coordinating.

These institutions would serve multiple purposes. They would facilitate cooperation by providing venues for ongoing bargaining and exchange. They would reinforce norms of equality and non-discrimination, thereby giving the order more legitimacy. And they would tie the United States more closely to its postwar partners, reducing worries about domination and abandonment. The result was an unprecedented effort across economic, political and security policy spheres to build working multilateral institutions. Fourth, there was a special emphasis on relations among the western liberal democracies.

FDR's Four Freedoms were of this sort, and so too were the principles of multilateralism embedded in the postwar economic institutions. But the order itself was organized around the United States and its liberal democratic allies and clients. The fact that it was built inside the larger Cold War-era bipolar system reinforced this orientation. Architects of the order understood that there was a special relationship among the western liberal democracies.

At first this encompassed essentially just western Europe and Japan; but in the aftermath of the Cold War a larger and more diverse community of democracies took hold. The essential premise of American global leadership was that there is something special and enduring about the alignment of democracies. They have shared interests and values. American presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama have acted on the assumption that democracies have a unique capacity to cooperate. This liberal hegemonic order flourished over the decades of the Cold War. It provided a framework for the liberalization of trade and decades of growth across the advanced industrial world.

Incomes and life opportunities steadily increased for the postwar generations of Europeans, Japanese and Americans. To be inside this liberal hegemonic order was to be positioned inside a set of full-service economic, political and security institutions. The foundations of this postwar liberal hegemonic order are weakening. In a simple sense, this is a story of grand shifts in the distribution of power and the consequences that follow.

The United States and its allies are less powerful than they were when they built the postwar order. The unipolar moment—when the United States dominated world economic and military rankings—is ending. Europe and Japan have also weakened. Together, this old triad of patrons of the postwar liberal order is slowly dwindling in its share of the wider global distribution of power. Rather, it is simply a gradual diffusion of power away from the West. China will probably not replace the United States as an illiberal hegemon, and the global South will probably not emerge as a geopolitical bloc that directly challenges the US-led order.

But the United States—and its old allies—will continue to be a smaller part of the global whole, and this will constrain their ability to support and defend the liberal international order. The political troubles of western liberal democracies magnify the implications of these global power shifts. As noted above, democracies everywhere are facing internal difficulties and discontents. The older western democracies are experiencing rising inequality, economic stagnation, fiscal crisis, and political polarization and gridlock.

Many newer and poorer democracies, meanwhile, are beset by corruption, backsliding and rising inequality. As democracies fail to address problems, their domestic legitimacy is diminished and increasingly challenged by resurgent nationalist, populist and xenophobic movements. Together, these developments cast a dark shadow over the democratic future. During the Cold War, the American-led liberal order was lodged within the western side of the bipolar world system. It was during these decades that the foundations of liberal hegemonic order were laid. This had several consequences.

Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

One was that the United States became the sole superpower—the world entered the unipolar moment. This made American power itself an issue in world politics. During the Cold War, American power had a functional role in the system: With the sudden emergence of unipolarity, American power was less constrained—and it did not play the same system-functional role. New debates emerged about the character of American hegemonic power. What would restrain American power?

Was the United States now an informal empire? Ironically, the crisis of the US-led liberal order can be traced to the collapse of Cold War bipolarity and the resulting spread of liberal internationalism. The seeds of crisis were planted at this moment of triumph. The liberal international order was, in effect, globalized. It was freed from its Cold War foundations and rapidly became the platform for an expanding global system of liberal democracy, markets and complex interdependence.

During the Cold War, the liberal order was a global subsystem—and the bipolar global system served to reinforce the roles, commitments, identity and community that were together manifest as liberal hegemony. The crisis of liberal internationalism can be seen as a slow-motion reaction to this deep transformation in the geopolitical setting of the postwar liberal international project. Specifically, the globalization of liberal internationalism put in motion two long-term effects: First, with the collapse of the Soviet sphere, the American-led liberal international order became the only surviving framework for order, and a growing number and diversity of states began to be integrated into it.

This created new problems for the governance of the order. During the Cold War, the western-oriented liberal order was led by the United States, Europe and Japan, and it was organized around a complex array of bargains, working relationships and institutions. Indeed, in the early postwar years, most of the core agreements about trade, finance and monetary relations were hammered out between the United States and Britain.

These countries did not agree on everything, but relative to the rest of the world, this was a small and homogeneous group of western states. Their economies converged, their interests were aligned and they generally trusted each other. These countries were also on the same side of the Cold War, and the American-led alliance system reinforced cooperation. This system of alliance made it easier for the United States and its partners to make commitments and bear burdens.

It made it easier for European and east Asian states to agree to operate within an American-led liberal order. In this sense, the Cold War roots of the postwar liberal order reinforced the sense that the liberal democracies were involved in a common political project. With the end of the Cold War, these foundational supports for liberal order were loosened. More, and more diverse, states entered the order—with new visions and agendas. The post-Cold War era also brought into play new and complex global issues, such as climate change, terrorism and weapons proliferation, and the growing challenges of interdependence.

These are particularly hard issues on which to reach agreement among states coming from very different regions, with similarly different political orientations and levels of development. As a result, the challenges to multilateral cooperation have grown. At the core of these challenges has been the problem of authority and governance.

Who pays, who adjusts, who leads? Rising non-western states began to seek a greater voice in the governance of the expanding liberal order. How would authority across this order be redistributed? The old coalition of states—led by the United States, Europe and Japan—built a postwar order on layers of bargains, institutions and working relationships.

But this old trilateral core is not the centre of the global system in the way it once was. The crisis of liberal order today is in part a problem of how to reorganize the governance of this order. The old foundations have been weakened, but new bargains and governance arrangements are yet to be fully negotiated. Second, the crisis of the liberal order is a crisis of legitimacy and social purpose. During the Cold War, the American-led postwar order had a shared sense that it was a community of liberal democracies that were made physically safer and economically more secure by affiliating with each other.

The first several generations of the postwar period understood that to be inside this order was to be in a political and economic space where their societies could prosper and be protected. Trade and economic openness were rendered more or less compatible with economic security, stable employment and advancing living standards. The western-oriented liberal order had features of a security community—a sort of mutual protection society. Membership of this order was attractive because it provided tangible rights and benefits. It was a system of multilateral cooperation that provided national governments with tools and capacities to pursue economic stability and advancement.

This idea of liberal order as a security community is often lost in the narratives of the postwar era. The common interests were manifest, for example, in the gains that flowed from trade and the benefits of alliance cooperation. The shared values were manifest in a degree of public trust and ready capacity for cooperation rooted in the values and institutions of liberal democracy.

Mutual vulnerability was a sense that these countries were experiencing a similar set of large-scale perils—flowing from the great dangers and uncertainties of geopolitics and modernity. Modernization is an inherently unsettling march into the future. With the end of the Cold War and the globalization of the liberal order, this sense of security community was undermined. This happened in the first instance, as noted above, through the rapid expansion in the number and variety of states in the order.

The liberal order lost its identity as a western security community. It was now a far-flung platform for trade, exchange and multilateral cooperation.

Law and Ideology

The democratic world was now less Anglo-American, less western. It embodied most of the world—developed, developing, North and South, colonial and post-colonial, Asian and European. The result was an increasing divergence of views across the order about its members, their place in the world, and their historical legacies and grievances. There was less of a sense that liberal internationalism was a community with a shared narrative of its past and future.

The social purposes of the liberal order were further undermined by rising economic insecurity and grievance across the western industrial world. Since the financial crisis at least, the fortunes of workers and middle-class citizens in Europe and the United States have stagnated. For example, in the United States almost all the growth in wealth since the s has gone to the top 20 per cent of earners in society. The post-Cold War growth in trade and interdependence does not seem to have directly advanced the incomes and life opportunities of many segments of the western liberal democracies.

Looking across global income levels, Milanovic finds that the vast bulk of gains in real per capita income have been made in two very different groups. Schmidt, October 27, And because ideology such as law takes a formal and normative form, the powerful are in its grips too, persuaded by an account of the inevitable and just order from which they profit. Moreover, ideology is no mere fiction; it is produced by real social conditions and reflects them. Ideology thus must succeed in constituting a consensus about capitalism, and it must do so by giving expression to capitalism's recognizable features.

Equality before the law, for example, is both elicited by, and reflects, the reality of capitalist economic relations, even if it is an equality that is formal and incomplete. Consent will not be forthcoming if legal ideology bears no relation whatsoever to the social conditions it seeks to justify. The idea that ideology inverts reality is important here. In his camera obscura metaphor in The German Ideology , Marx contends that reality appears upside down in ideology, much like the photographic process provides an inverted image.

The inverted image is telling; it is a recognisable depiction of reality, even if it is at the same time a distorted one. Karl Mannheim elaborated further on the idea of the complex relation between reality and ideology by pointing to the human need for ideology. Ideologies are neither true nor false but are a set of socially conditioned ideas that provide a truth that people, both the advantaged and the disadvantaged, want to hear.

In the s, American jurisprudence came under the influence of another version of the critical view of ideology and law. The school of legal realism abandoned Marx's specifically historical materialist explanation, but took up the idea that social forces outside the law are central in determining what the law is.

Instead, the realists contended that law is inherently indeterminate, and thus judicial decisions must be explained by factors outside the law. Ideology emerges as one kind of realist explanation, where judicial decisions are the effect of political ideas, be they of the judge, the legal profession more generally, societal elites, or majority public opinion. The realists aligned their critique of law with a progressive politics.


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The inevitable influence of factors external to the law meant that social and political changes augured by the emerging welfare state were no threat to the purity of law. Indeed, the expanding regulative power of the administrative state would make it more likely that the influences on the law were now those of popular sovereignty and social justice, rather than the more nefarious influences of the past.

The view that law is a reflection of ideology was taken up again in the s and 80s, with the emergence of the Critical Legal Studies movement. Critical Legal Studies was a radical school of thought shaped by a number of influences: The movement takes up the realist idea that law is fundamentally indeterminate, and echoes Marxist views about how the interests of the powerful shape law.

Exponents offer some astute observations about the ways in which law is taught and practiced in order to give the misleading impression of law's certainty and legitimacy. The indeterminacy of law can produce a variety of results; Duncan Kennedy, for example, points out the surprising ways in which the ideology of formal legal reasoning can remedy injustice, even if ideology often disables such remedies as well. Thus the ideology view can now be taken to reflect a consensus among radicals of all stripes on the role of law as a dissembling force to safeguard the unjust relations of the status quo.

The well-known debate about the sources of law appears to be radically undercut by a view of law as ideology. The sources debate has usually been posed in terms of the extent to which morality is intrinsic to the definition of law. Natural lawyers argue that what is law must partly depend on moral criteria. Following Thomas Aquinas, the traditional criteria have not strayed far from the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but more recent natural law arguments, such as those of Lon Fuller and Ronald Dworkin, have proffered secular standards emanating from the procedural ideals of the rule of law or the constitutionalism of American liberalism.

All natural lawyers, however, are agreed that what the law is must be determined, in some sense, by what the law ought to be. Positivists, in contrast, have argued that what is law is determined only by the institutional facts internal to a legal system, facts that may or may not meet moral standards. Early positivists, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Austin, argued that even the legitimacy of law did not depend on moral criteria; law must be obeyed, however much it falls short of moral ideals.

More recent exponents, such as H. Hart and Joseph Raz, have argued that legal positivism is committed only to the idea that because what is law is a factual question, law's legitimacy can be determined by moral criteria outside the law that might recommend disobedience. All positivists, however, are agreed that, although law may meet moral criteria, what the law is and what it ought to be should be kept distinct. The natural law and legal positivist positions are united, however, in the aim to provide a concept of the essence of law.

This endeavour supplies them with a common enemy in the view of law as ideology, which finds trying to determine the essence of law as fundamentally misconceived. After all, if law is inevitably shaped by ideas emanating from power relations outside of the law, then it would seem that law has no essence, be it moral or institutional. If law is reduced to ideology, or seen as its mere effect, then legality looks contingent and unprincipled, having no necessary content or definition, no intrinsic character.

If law both mirrors and distorts the realities of power, it is power, not principles of legality, which tell us what law is. Thus for most mainstream legal theorists, the ideological is no necessary feature of the law, and law should certainly not be defined according to the radical conception where intrinsic to law is a mystification of reality, or an obfuscation of social relations in order to exact compliance.

The picture is more complicated, however. The Marxist view of law as ideology does, after all, have some affinities with rival views on the sources of law. The Marxist view concedes to the positivist, for example, that law emerges from the practices of society, though the practices are extra-legal -- political, economic and social -- rather than the practices of institutional facts internal to a legal system.

Social forces are ultimately determining of the content and form of a legal system. Indeed, the Marxist Louis Althusser's idea of ideological state apparatuses has a positivist flavour in its insistence that political reality can be exhaustively described by reference to structures rather than norm-bearing agents.

We might expect that the radical exponent of ideology would resist the combination of a positivist-ideology view. The radical would find in the positivist emphasis on institutions a too uncritical attitude to the ideological structures that shape those institutions. But it seems possible that the positivist position could be interpreted to remove any ascribing of legitimacy to the institutions that define law in order to accommodate the critique of the radical ideology position.

As for the natural law position, the Marxist view of law as ideology concedes to the natural lawyer that law is normative. What is ideology, after all, but a set of values and ideals? However, on the Marxist view, the norms are defined in terms of the interests they serve, rather than the justice they embody. Law is normative, but it is certainly not moral, the Marxist insists against the natural lawyer. The critical aspect of the radical ideology view suggests an impasse between the natural lawyer and the ideology position that is more difficult to overcome than in the positivist case.

Of course, natural lawyers and positivists could quite easily find room for the liberal view of ideology as an action-oriented system of beliefs as a supplement to their views about the sources of law, in the sense that ideology is part of the sociological landscape to which their concepts of law apply. Natural law can find popular expression in a society's ideology, and positivist legal institutions might reflect ideological beliefs.

All this points to another and related tension. This is the tension between the radical ideology view and the concept of the rule of law, the centrepiece of a liberal legal order. At their most basic, the terms the rule of law, due process, procedural justice, legal formality, procedural rationality, justice as regularity, all refer to the idea that law should meet certain procedural requirements so that the individual is enabled to obey it.

These requirements center on the principle that the law be general, that it take the form of rules. Law by definition should be directed to more than a particular situation or individual; as Lon Fuller notes, the rule of law also requires that law be relatively certain, clearly expressed, open, prospective and adequately publicised. The view of law as ideology, even in its radical variants, would not deny the presence of the rule of law in the liberal legal order; indeed, the rule of law is often invoked as a paradigmatic example of legal ideology. This is because, however, the rule of law is interpreted as a device that serves the interests of the powerful; moreover, it is a device that dissembles itself.

The rule of law, in its restraint on the exercise of governmental and judicial power, facilitates the aims of those with power of other kinds, particularly economic power. This is not a surprising argument, if one considers how right-wing thinkers like Frederick Hayek have lauded the rule of law for its essential role in buttressing the free market. Left wing and right wing thinkers are agreed, then, on the capitalist function of the rule of law.

For the left-wing theorist of ideology, however, the rule of law also has ideological aspects that mean it serves capitalist purposes in more sinister ways. For in its restraint on political and legal power, the rule of law implies that these public forms of power are the only forms of power that exist, or at least the only ones that matter. Moreover, in assuring the subjects of the law that that law is applied with generality and certainty, the rule of law also implies that formal justice is the only relevant kind of justice; that equality before the law is identical to equality per se.

These claims about the rule of law and ideology are complex and need careful scrutiny. Does the rule of law necessarily involve manipulation on behalf of the capitalist order? Given its formal virtues, and its agnosticism on the content of law, the rule of law seems innocent of charges of a capitalist bias, or a bias of any kind.

As Raz puts it, the rule of law's virtue is like the virtue of a sharp knife; it enables the law to fulfill its function, whatever the function might be. Moreover, it is hard to see how the rule of law itself is engaged in any project of deception. Generality in the law, for example, does not necessarily entail any particular commitments on how the economy or society should be organized; nor does it propagate falsity or error. Nonetheless, it is true that the proceduralism of the rule of law can be put to ideological purposes, to deflect social criticism and prevent radical change.

And if enthusiasts of the rule of law place enough emphasis on procedural justice, this can reduce the likelihood that more substantive conceptions of justice will have success. Historically, societies governed by the rule of law have tended to be structured by capitalist markets, suggesting an affinity between the two sets of institutions. The rule of law can have an ideological effect even if it is not ideological in its essence.

The idea that law is ideological is an important contribution to legal scholarship. First, it enables a more critical view of the law and its role, and thereby demystifies a set of vital social institutions.