Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




W.J. Waluchow




The Rule of Law is an important and prevalent concept in current legal and political discourse on both national and international levels. It is frequently used by politicians, states and the news media to criticize or commend states and governments for the legitimacy or illegitimacy of legal and political actions and decisions. However, few are on the same page when it comes to explaining just what the Rule of Law is.

The fact that people generally, politicians and academics frequently employ this concept for which no one holds the same conception is problematic. Meaningful communication cannot occur unless the participants engaged in communication understand the terms of the discussion. It is rather distressing that we continue to discuss legal and political legitimacy in terms which are vague and ambiguously defined.

If we do not want to find ourselves succumbing to pure political rhetoric, it is time to investigate and refine our understanding of this important concept. My goal in this thesis is to demonstrate that though the discourse is pervaded by disagreement and a lack of clear insight, this state of affairs is neither desirable nor inevitable. By employing some basic methodological considerations for evaluating concepts, including considerations of current and historical usage, the analysis of raw material and by engaging in careful conceptual analysis, it is possible to narrow the scope of what is meant by the term "the Rule of Law," thus enabling meaningful discourse.

McMaster University Library

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