John Austin

John Austin in United Kingdom

John Austin

Introduction to John Austin

John Austin (1790-1859), British legal scholar. Austin was influential in developing the theory of analytical jurisprudence. Born in London, England, he became a barrister in 1818, but he was not well suited to the work and his practice was unsuccessful. In 1826 he was made professor of jurisprudence at London University, which was still in construction at the time. To prepare himself for the position, Austin went to Germany where he studied the theories of the German legal scholar Friedrich Karl von Savigny, one of the founders of the historical school of thought (see Jurisprudence: Schools of Jurisprudence). Austin returned to London and began his professorship, but his teaching style was not popular and his audience dwindled. He abandoned the professorship in 1832.

In 1832 Austin published his first six lectures as The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, an exposition of his theories of analytical law and a defense of utilitarianism (doctrine of ethics that holds that the ethical value of conduct is determined by the utility of its results). Much of his other work was published posthumously.

Recognition of the relevance of Austin’s writings came only after his death. His theory of analytical jurisprudence, which held that the law is a logical, consciously created, and enforceable whole, was controversial, and consequently Austin’s reputation has fluctuated with the changing fashions of thought. Many critics of his work have held that his approach to law was too sterile and ignored the social role held by law and the courts. But the merit of aspects of his theories have been recognized and incorporated by many. The collection of his later lectures, published in 1863, is a valuable expansion of Austin’s analysis of legal concepts.” (1)

Alternative Biography

AUSTIN, JOHN (1790-1859). —Jurist, served in the army in Sicily and Malta, but, selling his commission, studied law, and was called to the Bar 1818. He did not long continue to practise, but devoted himself to the study of law as a science, and became Professor of Jurisprudence in London University 1826-32. Thereafter he served on various Royal Commissions. By his works he exercised a profound influence on the views of jurisprudence held in England. These include The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (1832), and his Lectures on Jurisprudence.

Source: A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature


Notes and References

Guide to John Austin







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