Malaysia’s National Economic Policy was formulated with two objectives: to eradicate poverty and restructure society. In this article we trace the origins of the policy and review it from a legal perspective. We found that although the policy is not law in the sense used by traditional model jurisprudence, it has nevertheless been adhered to. We argue that this adherence was not because of any moral obligation to comply or that it reflected popular consciousness, but because of the prevailing political and institutional structures which allows the state to impose non-legal sanctions. Thus, although not law, the policy carries with it the state’s coercive powers to induce compliance.