Why People Obey the Law

By in Jurisprudence on May 25, 2013

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People obey the law if they believe it’s legitimate, not because they fear punishment–this is the startling conclusion of Tom Tyler’s classic study. Tyler suggests that lawmakers and law enforcers would do much better to make legal systems worthy of respect than to try to instill fear of punishment. He finds that people obey law primarily because they believe in respecting legitimate authority.

In his fascinating new afterword, Tyler brings his book up to date by reporting on new research into the relative importance of legal legitimacy and deterrence, and reflects on changes in his own thinking since his book was first published.

2 thoughts on “Why People Obey the Law

  1. 1
    14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    A very useful treatise on perceptions of justice, November 25, 1995
    By A Customer

    Professor Tyler of U.C. Berkeley has written a lucid and useful treatise that explores one aspectof why people obey the law: their perceptions of the procedural and substantive justice of thelegal system. As this issue is multifaceted, Tyler examines various aspects of a wide variety of perceptions and opinions within his sample. The data he presents are extremely valuable in explaining, not why people break the law, but the equally important (or more important) question of why they usually do not. His conclusions emphasize the importance of public perceptions of substantive and especially procedural justice and how people’s interactions with courts and the police shape those beliefs. Certainly, Tyler has not explained “why people obey the law,” as that would be a gargantuan task (although the book is not small). Rather, he explicates one extremely important aspect of why people obey the law, and for that Tyler has made a valuable contribution to students of the law, politics, and psychology. This book will be a classic in the law and society movement, if it has not already become one.

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  2. 2
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Great, April 24, 2013

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    It met my expectations.
    I would certainly recommend it to a friend.
    Good quality product compared to similar products of its kind.

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