Does Legal Pluralism Need a Concept of Law?
Law and Politics Book Review, Vol. 19, No. 10, pp. 774-779, 2009
7 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2010
This paper, reviewing Emmanuel Melissaris' Ubiquitous Law, argues that the book's project – that of seeking a 'thin' concept of law to underpin legal pluralist theory, together with a highly flexible and open approach to institutional characteristics of law – is problematic from a sociolegal viewpoint. Melissaris seeks to preserve legal philosophy's concern with the question 'What is law?' while recognising that this question can receive only vague and open answers if legal pluralism is to be taken seriously in legal theory. His discussion is sophisticated and thoughtful, but he is wrong to imply that sociology of law depends ultimately on legal philosophy's conceptual inquiries. Sociolegal studies need rich and provocative, but only provisional, flexible and endlessly revisable specifications of 'the legal' as a guide for research practice. Legal philosophy's conceptual inquiries may help to shape these specifications, but are not prerequisites for the task.
Keywords: Legal pluralism, legal philosophy, legal theory, sociology of law, concept of law, law and state
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