Soft Law

51 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2008

See all articles by Jacob E. Gersen

Jacob E. Gersen

Harvard University

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School


Soft law consist of rules issued by law-making bodies that do not comply with procedural formalities necessary to give the rules legal status yet nonetheless may influence the behavior of other law-making bodies and of the public. Soft law has been much discussed in the literatures on international law, constitutional law, and administrative law, yet congressional soft-lawmaking, such as the congressional resolution, has received little attention. Congressional soft law affects behavior by informing the public and political institutions about the intentions and policy preferences of Congress, which are informative about future hard law as well as of Congress's view of the world, and thus relevant to the decision-making of various political agents as well as that of the public. Congressional soft law is important for a range of topics, including statutory interpretation and constitutional development. Other types of soft law - international, constitutional, and judicial - are compared.

Keywords: soft law, norms

Suggested Citation

Gersen, Jacob E. and Posner, Eric A., Soft Law. Stanford Law Review, Forthcoming, U of Chicago, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 213, Available at SSRN:

Jacob E. Gersen (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)


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