Two Visions of Time: The Different Temporalities of the Rättstat and the Rule of Law

Stenlund, K., & Hellner, A. (2023). In: Scandinavian studies in law, 69(May 2023), 253-271.


An important element of a democratic society is usually said to be the Rule of Law. But what does it really mean? Simply put, the concept of the Rule of Law implies that those in positions of authority are bound to follow the law. The representatives obey the laws that they themselves have passed. Sometimes it is said that the Rule of Law is synonymous with rättsstat  (Rechtsstat/state of law). In this article, however, the writers argue that the Rule of Law and rättstat are two different things and that they represent different ways in which a democracy can be built. Besides, the writers believe that the Rule of Law and rättstat embody two distinct ideals of time. One is forward-looking (rättsstat), while the other is backward facing (Rule of Law). This difference in the perception of time can be one of the reasons why our current understanding of democracy may encounter significant challenges.

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