Threat of Sanctions Proves Critical to "Force of Law" in UVA Law Professor Frederick Schauer's New Book

Frederick Schauer, a noted legal theorist and First Amendment scholar, is also the author of "Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning."

January 27, 2015

Whether it's a politician or a pedestrian, Americans break the law when no one's looking, study after study shows. University of Virginia School of Law professor Frederick Schauer, one of the nation's leading legal theorists, looked at the evidence and found it upended decades of legal philosophy.

"There's this widespread assumption that people often obey the law just because it's law," he said.

Schauer's new book," The Force of Law," published by Harvard University Press, challenges those conventions.

"If we actually look at how law operates and how people obey the law, we will understand that what differentiates law, what makes law special, is that it tells us what to do and threatens us with bad stuff if we don't do it," he said.

Schauer, the David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, is also Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment, Emeritus, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. At UVA he teaches courses in jurisprudence, constitutional law and evidence.

Writing the book allowed him to explore literature on obedience to law, a long-standing interest.


Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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