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Nomocracy (from the Greek nomos the law and kratos the power, rule) is a state rule based on and in accordance with written law, which excludes the right to resistance. The term originated in the 18th century based on the ancient doctrine of forms of rule. The nomocracy excludes that the arbitrariness of the sovereign takes precedence over the law (as in the case of Thomas Hobbes , for example ), or that the regulation of public affairs comes about through a completely free negotiation of different interests.

Although the term has been in use since the 17th century, the idea was pursued even earlier. Aristotle 's saying: "Law should rule" has already been handed down.


The nomocracy does not correspond to any (specific) form of government or government. Instead, only one general maxim is required:

Laws, not people, should rule over people.

The rule of law is more concretely comprehensible in the thought that emerged in the 19th century that no authority may act without legal authorization ( prohibition of arbitrariness ). A rigorous nomocracy demands general submission - both of the state and the population - to general rules. Thus formulated Immanuel Kant :

“There is therefore no legitimate resistance of the people against the legislative head of the state; for only through submission to his general-legislative will is a legal condition possible; So there is no right of rebellion [...] - The reason for the people's duty to endure even the abuse of the supreme power, which is seen as intolerable, lies in the fact that their resistance against the highest legislation itself is never other than unlawful, yes than the entire legal one Must be thought of as destroying the constitution. For in order to be authorized to do so, a public law would have to exist which allowed this resistance of the people, i.e. the supreme legislation contained a provision in itself not to be supreme and the people as subject in one and the same judgment to sovereign to make him to whom it is subject; which contradicts itself and of which the contradiction immediately becomes apparent through the question: who should be the judge in this dispute between people and sovereign (because from a legal point of view there are always two different moral persons); where it is then shown that the former wants to be so in its own cause. "

- Immanuel Kant: AA V, 319– Metaphysics of Morals

Nomocracy thus enables a form of ultimate justification for legality . But this is then determined by what the legitimate source of positive law can be. Nomocracy harbors the risk of identifying legality and legitimacy and thus the tendency to conclude a purely formal legalism against any decision-making processes among the people. Thus nomocracy was often united with the actually opposite form of rule of autocracy . Since the 19th century, the term nomocracy has been replaced by the term rule of law .

Offensive representatives of a nomocracy are Friedrich August von Hayek and James M. Buchanan . The rule of law and a constitutional state are the result of nomocratic endeavors.


  • "Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution" by AV Dicey.

Web links

Wiktionary: Nomocracy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Aristotle, Politics 3.16
  2. Immanuel Kant, Collected Writings. Ed .: Vol. 1-22 Prussian Academy of Sciences, Vol. 23 German Academy of Sciences in Berlin, from Vol. 24 Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Berlin 1900ff., AA V, 319– Metaphysics of Morals .