Normative Legal Theories: The Case for Pluralism and Balancing

39 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2013

See all articles by Steven J. Burton

Steven J. Burton

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: January 3, 2013


Normative legal theories make recommendations about what the law should be. They may be “pluralist” or “monist.” Robust pluralist theories justify their recommendations by considering and, when necessary, balancing all relevant values. Monist theories consider one and only one value and, consequently, hope to avoid balancing competing values. Monist theories, such as those based on economic efficiency alone, have proliferated in recent decades. This Article is the first to explore in depth pluralism, balancing, and the monism of monist legal theories. It argues that pluralism and balancing are normatively appealing while monism has serious deficiencies. Consequently, it concludes, all normative legal theories should be pluralist.

Keywords: Legal Theory, Law and Economics, Contracts

Suggested Citation

Burton, Steven J., Normative Legal Theories: The Case for Pluralism and Balancing (January 3, 2013). 98 Iowa L. Rev. 535 (2013), U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-6, Available at SSRN:

Steven J. Burton (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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