His legal arguments were subtly presented applications to specific problems of a classic liberal philosophy which, in turn, was grounded in his belief that law must take its authority from what ordinary people would recognise as moral virtue....
Perhaps Dworkin's greatest achievement was his insistence on a rights-based theory of law, expounded in his first and most influential book, Taking Rights Seriously (1977), in which he proposed an alternative both to Hart's legal positivism and to the newly minted theories of the Harvard philosopher of law John Rawls....Read the whole thing. Click on the Dworkin tag to see what we were saying about him while he was alive.
He remained an unapologetic, indeed proud, liberal Democrat, unshaken in his loyalty to the New Deal tradition set by his hero Franklin D Roosevelt, even as such ideas became less and less widely held. It is possible that this shifting of the political centre of gravity under him deprived him of a more prominent career as a public intellectual.
When I went to law school beginning in 1978, at NYU — where Dworkin taught — nothing was taken more seriously than "Taking Rights Seriously." That was just before the outburst that was Critical Legal Studies, in a time and a place where we were expected to believe that rights were real. Shame on you if you suspected they were inventions of judges.