Stateless Law: Kelsen's Conception and its Limits

Posted: 17 Jul 2008

See all articles by Alexander Somek

Alexander Somek

University of Iowa - College of Law

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Date Written: 2006


Hans Kelsen's claim that the state and the law are identical is surrounded by a somewhat mystical air. Yet, the 'identity thesis' loses much of its mystical aura when it is seen as an attempt to recast the state, qua social fact, in deontological terms. The state is seen as a condition necessary to account for the validity of legal acts. Indeed, the meaning of the state is reduced to the function performed by a conception of order in the reproduction of a system of norms. No further social fact would attest to its existence. From a sociological point of view, all law is essentially, and principally, law sans state.

Suggested Citation

Somek, Alexander, Stateless Law: Kelsen's Conception and its Limits ( 2006). Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 26, Issue 4, pp. 753-774, 2006. Available at SSRN: or

Alexander Somek (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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