Stating Boundaries: The Law, Disciplined

Helge Dedek

McGill University - Faculty of Law; Institute of Comparative Law

July 11, 2014

Stateless Law: Evolving Boundaries of a Discipline, Helge Dedek & Shauna Van Praagh eds. (Aldershot: Ashgate, Forthcoming)

When we reflect on the traditionally disputed ‘disciplinarity’ of law, its intrinsic connection to the nation-state and the possible inevitability of interdisciplinarity for legal scholarship and education, the obvious first question we have to address is: what is a discipline?

Drawing insight from the history of the concept of ‘discipline’, the paper reflects on the formation process of law as a modern academic discipline. In particular, it focuses on the ‘self-disciplining’ efforts of legal study in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century to simultaneously please three masters: the university, the regulatory state, and the legal profession. Through the framing device of three inaugural lectures on the study of law – by Blackstone and Dicey in England, and von Liszt in Germany – it sheds light on various institutional dynamics of discipline formation: first, the rise of ‘legal science’, fueled by the changing demands of academia, but deployed also as an argument to placate the profession; second, the related turn away from natural law and towards positivism, which demarcated law from the discipline of philosophy, but spoke as well to the interests of the nation-state; and third, the ‘disciplining’ of legal education through the inculcation of external requirements imposed by state and professional standards.

These instrumentalist pressures remain apparent to this day, to varying degrees across jurisdictions and institutions. However, with the nation-state as dominant intellectual point of reference now in decline, the factors determining the traditional self-definition of law as a university discipline have to be studied, understood, and re-assessed.

This paper is a draft version of an introductory chapter to the collection ‘Stateless Law: Evolving Boundaries of a Discipline’ (Helge Dedek & Shauna Van Praagh eds.; Ashgate, forthcoming) – a book about the challenge that contemplating law without the state – stateless law – poses to the law as a university discipline – law as it is studied and taught by academics in the institutional context of higher education.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: Law as an Academic Discipline, university, disciplina, Blackstone, Dicey, von Liszt, Historical School, legal history, legal theory

JEL Classification: K00, K40, K49

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Date posted: July 30, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Dedek, Helge, Stating Boundaries: The Law, Disciplined (July 11, 2014). Stateless Law: Evolving Boundaries of a Discipline, Helge Dedek & Shauna Van Praagh eds. (Aldershot: Ashgate, Forthcoming) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2465104

Contact Information

Helge Dedek (Contact Author)
McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )
3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
Institute of Comparative Law ( email )
3644 Peel Street
Montreal, QC H3A 1W9
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