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Legal Realism, Pluralism, and their Challengers


Nicholas W. Barber


University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

December 12, 2012

EUROPEAN LEGAL METHOD - TOWARDS A NEW EUROPEAN LEGAL REALISM?, U. Neergaard, R. Nielsen, eds., Copenhagen: DJOEF Publishing, 2013
Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 76/2012

Abstract:     
This paper looks at the intersection of three strands of legal scholarship. Legal realism and legal pluralism can each trace their origins back to the early years of the last century. After a comparative decline of interest, they are now back in fashion, with energetic debate raging over their implications for legal scholarship. Alongside this revival, a challenger has emerged. Inspired by the work of Ronald Dworkin, a number of scholars have argued for an understanding of law that, initially at least, appears to place both realism and pluralism beyond the reach of legal theory. This paper seeks to defend both realism and pluralism against this challenge. It contends, first, that the complementary analytical attractions of realism and pluralism provide reasons why the Dworkinian approach to law ought not to be embraced. Secondly, even if we were to adopt the Dworkinian account of law, this would still leave the core insights of realism and pluralism untouched: even a Dworkinian must accept the need for a complementary ‘sociological’ concept of law to supplement her ‘doctrinal’ account of law. Finally, under certain conditions even a Dworkinian account of law leaves space for legal pluralism, though not for legal realism. Perhaps Dworkinians can be pluralists, too.

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Date posted: December 13, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Barber, Nicholas W., Legal Realism, Pluralism, and their Challengers (December 12, 2012). EUROPEAN LEGAL METHOD - TOWARDS A NEW EUROPEAN LEGAL REALISM?, U. Neergaard, R. Nielsen, eds., Copenhagen: DJOEF Publishing, 2013; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 76/2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2188249

Contact Information

Nicholas W. Barber (Contact Author)
University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )
St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom
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