Legal Expressivism: A Primer

25 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2009

See all articles by Matthew A. Edwards

Matthew A. Edwards

Baruch College (CUNY) - Zicklin School of Business

Date Written: March 16, 2009


This paper aims to provide a basic primer on legal expressivism for scholars with a general interest in normative legal theory as well as those who are interested in applying the teachings of legal expressivism to novel regulatory contexts. It first surveys the two main strands of legal expressivism: instrumental expressivism and revelatory expressivism. After discussing the meaning of revelatory expressivism, the paper briefly addresses an issue that critics have raised with revelatory expressivism - its controversial commitment to some form of "objective" public meanings of legal actions. The paper concludes by briefly exploring the relationship between normative legal theory and the two main strands of legal expressivism.

Keywords: Expressivism, expressivist theories of law, revelatory expressivism, expressive harms, New Chicago School, law and economics, normative legal theory, law and social norms,

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Matthew A., Legal Expressivism: A Primer (March 16, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew A. Edwards (Contact Author)

Baruch College (CUNY) - Zicklin School of Business ( email )

55 Lexington Ave., Box B13-260
New York, NY 10010
United States

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