Totem, Taboo and the Concept of Law: Myth in Hart and Freud


This Article proceeds as follows. First, I recount Hart’s myth of Rex as he presents it in The Concept of Law. I then visit Freud’s Totem and Taboo, both in its original form and as reinterpreted by Lacan and Žižek, and show the striking similarities. I then consider both why Hart feels that his tale helps to elucidate the concept of law, and why Lacan believes that we are drawn to tell such stories about the birth of law. Finally, I will review Hart’s other myth—the myth of a primitive society governed by unruly recognition of the primary rules of behavior—and how this separate myth relates to the myth of Moses and Monotheism.


Legal history, Rule of law, United States, Moses and Monotheism (Nonfiction work), The Concept of Law (Nonfiction work), Totem and Taboo (Nonfiction work), Sigmund Freud, H.L.A. Hart



Jeanne L. Schroeder (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law)



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