The American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy (ASPLP) was begun in 1955 by Carl Friedrich to bring together scholars in political science, law, and philosophy who are interested in interdisciplinary exploration of a range of problems in political and legal philosophy. The main activity of the Society is its annual conference held on a topic chosen in advance by the ASPLP membership, at which three papers—one from each of the participating disciplines—are presented. The Society publishes these papers, along with formal commentary and invited additional essays, in NOMOS, its yearbook. As Friedrich explained in the Preface to Authority, the first yearbook: "We are calling the series NOMOS, which is the broadest Greek term for law, because in this term there are also traditionally comprised the notions of a basic political order and of customs and a way of life." He continued: "It describes reasonably well, and perhaps better than any term of modern English, what must be the focus of a society such as ours, uniting the several social sciences, law, and philosophy." That commitment to interdisciplinary normative inquiry has characterized the ASPLP and the NOMOS series ever since.
The ASPLP leadership has included some of the most distinguished and accomplished scholars in political and legal philosophy, including John Rawls, Lon Fuller, Judith Shklar, Michael Walzer, and Nancy Rosenblum.
The ASPLP has benefited greatly from the generous support of Boston University School of Law, Brown University's Political Theory Project, Duke University School of Law, New York University's College of Arts & Science-Social Sciences, Princeton University's Center for Human Values, and Stanford University's School of Humanities and Sciences, as well as from a bequest by Professor John Ladd of Brown University, a former Secretary-Treasurer and President of the Society.