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Sub-components of the Rule of Law: Reassessing the Relevance of Diminished Subtypes

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Abstract The rule of law research agenda is in many ways still in its infancy. This is reflected, inter alia, in the fact that no attempt has been made to investigate the empirical relationship between sub-components of the rule law. In this article, we set out to make such an appraisal. We take our cue from a recent attempt to get at this relationship with a typology of ‘defective’ subtypes of the rule of law. Insofar as the underlying radial logic characterizes the relationship between constituent units of the rule of law, it would mean that countries tend to be situated in a range of so-called diminished subtypes, i.e., combinations defined by the presence of all attributes save one. The upshot of this is that we cannot simply aggregate the sub-component scores into composite indices. However, our analyses show that the scores on different rule of law attributes are highly correlated and that – if less fine-grained distinctions are used – cases tend to be characterized by either the presence of all attributes, by moderate scores on all attributes, or by severe shortcomings in every regard. These findings can be taken to support, first, that the value of constructing diminished subtypes of the rule of law is limited, and, second, that the creation of composite measures by aggregating across the rule of law subcomponents is not hampered by multidimensionality. At the end of the article, we use the extant literature on democratization and state formation to identify some potential reasons for the high co-variation between rule of law attributes.


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