Legal vs. Extra-Legal Responses to Public Health Emergencies | Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik - MPISOC

Übersicht der Sozialrecht Publikationen

Legal vs. Extra-Legal Responses to Public Health Emergencies


There is a long-established claim that emergency action through the law is impossible, or bound to be ineffective. This article seeks to challenge this position by reference to the response of many European states to the Coronavirus pandemic and by drawing on Lon Fuller’s theory of law. It argues that there are a number of reasons why a fragmentation of governance between ordinary, legal action and emergency, extra-legal action is neither necessary nor desirable in this specific context. In societies that are generally rule of law compliant governance according to formal legal principles is not only constraining, it also possesses the quality of a ‘liberating limitation’, creating the room for effective, sustainable action. Too little has been made of this positive dimension of the legal form as an instrument for emergency action.


Christian Günther

S. 131–149
European Journal of Health Law
online first