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Photo: “Scales Of Justice,” by Clyde Robinson licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic. Hue is modified from the original.

Umphrey, Martha Merrill, Lawrence Douglas, and Austin Sarat. “Law and Illiberalism.” (2022).


Does the law shield citizens from authoritarian regimes? Are the core beliefs of classical liberalism—namely the rights of all individuals and constraints on state power—still protected by law? Liberalism and its expansion of rights could not exist without the legal system, and unsurprisingly, many scholars have explored the relationship between law and liberalism. However, the study of law and illiberalism is a relatively recent undertaking, a project that takes on urgency in light of the rise of authoritarian powers, among them Donald Trump’s administration, Viktor Orban’s Hungary, Recep Erdogan’s Turkey, and Jair Bolsanoro’s Brazil.

In this volume, six penetrating essays explore the dynamics of the law and illiberal quests for power, examining the anti-liberalism of neoliberalism; the weaponization of “free speech”; the role of the administrative state in current crises of liberal democracy; the broad and unstoppable assault on facts, truth, and reality; and the rise of conspiracism leading up to the Capitol insurrection. In addition to the editors, contributors include Sharon Krause, Elizabeth Anker, Jeremy Kessler, Lee McIntyre, and Nancy Rosenblum.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.