The globe is facing massive challenges that defy established mechanisms of governance. Climate change, wars, and continuing poverty lead to both the dislocation and the isolation of populations. New forms of mobility and demographic change have put strain on the institutions responsible for social provision, like education, housing and employment. New dynamics of rule and resistance are emerging as fearful (and racist) people opt to elect authoritarians who promise stability and a return to some “golden age,” when there was less freedom, less liberty and more control through the use of real or threatened violence. In this world, sociolegal scholars are understandably concerned with understanding these phenomena as well as identifying what systems of ruling authority can address these problems and how they can do so—while also protecting the rights of the world’s residents and providing conditions for them to flourish.
Rule may be singular as well as plural. In a moment when we see the rise of authoritarian forms of governance, how are rules asserted as a form of resistance? Resistance is often envisioned as the deliberate breaking of rules, such as through civil disobedience or other forms of rebellion. But resistance can sometimes take the form of exact adherence to rules, such as the industrial strategy of work-to-rule, where workers do no more than the minimum required under their contract. In other situations, instituting rules can itself be an act of resistance against forms of lawless tyranny, or resistance might manifest through attempts to change particular rules and promote different rules. Resistance, too, is not without its rules: resistance movements have often developed their own internal rules to guide and co-ordinate the pursuit of their objectives.
In the face of this tidal wave of authoritarian rule in various parts of the globe, resistance takes many forms, all of which have implications for the way that people govern and organize themselves. In the US, we see social movements organizing protests, while courts are sometimes supporting the rule of law against a lawless administration. New currents of activity appear to be forming in realms such as reproductive rights and the regulation of gender-based misconduct. Narratives of resistance are emerging and stretching across national borders, including that of decolonisation. Many of these forms of resistance are aimed at asserting control over governing institutions, although many also contest elsewhere. In any case, organized institutional resistance is only one possibility; others resist through revolution, rejecting those institutions entirely, or through flight from repressive conditions, seeking refuge.