Austin was an English jurist of the 19th century. He belongs to the classical school of thought. The theory of sovereignty finds perfection in his hands.

He gives it a legal concept. Austin gives the following definition of legal sovereignty in his book “Province of Jurisprudence Determined” published in 1832.

“If a determinate human superior not in the habit of obedience to a like superior receives habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society, that determinate human superior is sovereign in that society, and the society is political and independent.

“Law is the command of a determinate human superior to an inferior, i.e., a command of the sovereignty to the subject. The essence of law is the coercive force of the state.”


A careful study of Austin’s theory of legal sovereignty will bring out the following distinctive features of sovereignty and law as viewed by him:—

1. Every state must be sovereign and should have a distinct sovereign authority. It may be a person or a body of persons. Legal sovereign must be definite and determinable.

One should be in a position to say as to which and who is the legal sovereign in a particular state. Sovereign may be a king or a dictator or a parliament but it has to be definite and particular.

A state without sovereignty is not a state but a dependency.


2. Sovereign has absolute, unlimited and indivisible authority. Internally, a vast majority of the people obey him and those who do not fall in the line with him are liable to be punished.

Externally, sovereign is supreme as he does not submit to the authority of a like sovereign.

3. Law is the command of the sovereign. Whatever the sovereign says is law. This means that courts recognize and enforce only those laws which are framed by the legal sovereign. There is no limit to law-making authority of the sovereign.

Rights are certain privileges sanctioned by the sovereign but legally, the subjects have no legal right against the sovereign.


4. Essence of law is the coercive power of the sovereign. Every breach of law is followed by punishment.