Karl Olivecrona's Legal Philosophy: A Critical Appraisal

Ratio Juris, 2011

85 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2009 Last revised: 26 May 2010

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 31, 2009


Karl Olivecrona and Alf Ross were the most prominent of the Scandinavian Realists, who were active from the late 1920's into the 1970's. While Ross was better known on the international arena, and also more appreciated as a legal philosopher, Olivecrona was in my view a more interesting thinker. Hence I offer in this article an overview and a critical appraisal of Olivecrona's legal philosophy, and argue (i) that Olivecrona's legal philosophy, especially the critique of the view that the law has binding force, the analysis of the concept and function of a legal rule, and the idea that the law is a matter of organized force, is a significant contribution to twentieth century legal philosophy. I also argue, on a more critical note, (ii) that Olivecrona's thoughts on judicial law-making are somewhat confused, (iiii) that Olivecrona fails to substantiate some of his most important empirical claims, such as the claim that imperatives have a suggestive character, and (iv) that the distinction espoused by Olivecrona between the truth and the correctness of legal statements is problematic but not needed in Olivecrona's legal philosophy.

Keywords: Jurisprudence, Scandinavian Realism, Olivecrona, Hagerstrum, Naturalisn, Binding Force, Truth

Suggested Citation

Spaak, Torben, Karl Olivecrona's Legal Philosophy: A Critical Appraisal (March 31, 2009). Ratio Juris, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1370842

Torben Spaak (Contact Author)

Stockholm University ( email )

S-106 91 Stockholm
46 8 16 45 89 (Phone)
46 8 612 41 09 (Fax)

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