Why People Obey the Law, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Law & society
  • ISBN: 9780691126739



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Not a new edition, but does include a new afterword in which Tyler reviews the theoretical advances and new literature on the question of why people obey the law: "people's motivation to cooperate with others, in this case legal authorities, is rooted in social relationships and ethical judgments [often captured in the idea of procedural justice], and does not primarily flow from the desire to avoid punishments or gain rewards." The need to assert this view, based upon empirical research, remains critical given the ongoing efforts of other scholars (e.g., Frederick Schauer, The Force of Law) to reduce law to the ability to enforce rules through sanction.

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