New Book in Catholic Ideas for a Secular World Series Examines the Authority of Law

This month, the University of Notre Dame Press is proud to publishFictions, Lies, and the Authority of Law bySteven D. Smith, the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego. In this volume, Smith discusses legal, political, and cultural difficulties that arise from the crisis of authority in the modern world.

Fictions, Lies, and the Authority of Law considers a variety of problems posed by the paradoxical ubiquity and absence of authority in the modern world. Some of these problems are jurisprudential or philosophical in character; others are more practical and lawyerly—problems of presidential powers and statutory and constitutional interpretation; still others might be called existential. Smith’s use of fictions as his purchase for thinking about authority has the potential to bring together the descriptive and the normative and to think about authority as a useful hypothesis that helps us to make sense of the empirical world. This strikingly original book shows that theoretical issues of authority have important practical implications for the kinds of everyday issues confronted by judges, lawyers, and other members of society.


Frederick Schauer says, “It is hard to break new ground in thinking about the nature and practice of authority, but Smith’s book, with its introduction of the idea of a fiction into the existing understanding, does just that.” Richard Garnett says, “In this provocative and illuminating work, one of our most insightful legal thinkers explores the nature of real authority.” Michael P. Moreland praises Smith saying, “As he has so often in his previous work, Steven Smith leads us to see familiar concepts in a new light and brings to bear a wide range of disciplines to conversations about law and legal theory.”

The book is the twelfth volume in the Catholic Ideas for a Secular World Series, edited by O. Carter Snead, director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. The series was created to feature authors from around the world who expand the influence of Catholic thought on the most important conversations in academia and the public square.

You can learn more at the Liberty Law Talk podcast. There will be a book event and reception at University of San Diego School of Law, September 29, 2021, 3:30pm PDT.

For more information about the book, contact: Kathryn Pitts,, 574.631.3267.

This piece first appeared in

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