Although the 'rule of law' is now widely recognised as indispensable to effective peace operations, its delineation remains elusive. Researchers contest its substance while those most responsible for its implementation (e. g. the United Nations) promulgate only abstract notions needed to inform detailed decisions. At its worst, this means that competing reform activities undermine each other, making long term success less likely. The questions we address are about the deficiencies in how rule of law is conceived. Particular attention is paid to the little recognised assumption that the Weberian state ideal corresponds to the societies on the receiving end of international interventions. After a review of extant academic and practitioner viewpoints, we set out a postWeberian framework which expands the dominant imagination to include non-state rule of law 'providers'. We argue that the optimum sources for immediate yet sustainable rule of law solutions may often be those which bear little resemblance to the conventional state-based providers that populate mainstream conceptions.