Belgrade Legal Theory Group organized its fifth event in 2023 with Julieta Rabanos (Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade) on the topic of the relationship between law and coercion.
Juleta highlighted key conceptual insights regarding coercion and its various forms. According to her, coercion could take the form of physical force or manipulation, and could be either centralized or decentralized. Additionally, it is crucial to consider the direct and indirect influence of coercion, as well as the motivation/justification distinction, which could be significant from different perspectives.
Juleta also emphasized that coercion could be perceived either as a technique for achieving some purpose or as a reason (cause), which would be either a tool for the realization of law or the content of law (norms that regulate force). Furthermore, coercion could be seen as an essential or non-essential element of the law, as well as the distinctive, prominent, or central factor of law – all depending on one’s views.
Afterward, Juleta moved on to her thesis, which is based on the assumption that law has a purpose it strives to achieve, and that it is a means to an end. She claimed that in order to fulfill its goal, law has to be efficient and in force, which could be achieved through coercion. However, this does not mean that all law is coercive, nor that people only follow legal norms because of coercion. It also does not imply that legal coercion is the only efficient form of coercion, since morality as a normative system could be an sufficient substitute. On the other hand, the general goals of law could be summarized thorugh the following: guiding behavior, coordination, resolving disputes, or better conforming with reason. Given that people are generally not good and have conflicting interests (although sociological generalizations are inconclusive), she concluded coercion seems necessary for achieving each of these possible ends.
Following was the Q&A part of the event, with substantial interest from the audience.
The participants were focused on various aspects of the topic, but mostly on potentially different conceptual approaches and the question of possible arguments for the refutation of coercion as necessary.
Julieta answered by claiming that certainly there are other ways to explore the possible exclusion of coercion as necessary, especially through redefining and making more precise the mentioned general functions of law. She mentioned some examples of law’s ends that make coercion redundant, as well as a general problem that arises from our views on coercion as indispensable for law, since such an approach disables prescriptive discourses in that regard.
Ending the meeting, Mila Đorđević thanked everyone for an excellent discussion, as well as Julieta for an interesting lecture.