Leon Petrazycki and Contemporary Socio-Legal Studies
Published in International Journal of Law in Context, Volume 11, No. 1 (2015), pp. 1-16
23 Pages Posted: 23 May 2015 Last revised: 27 May 2015
Date Written: May 21, 2015
The work of the Polish-Russian scholar Leon Petrażycki from the early decades of the twentieth century holds a strikingly paradoxical position in the literature of juristic and socio-legal scholarship: on the one hand, lauded as a supremely valuable contribution to knowledge about the nature of law and, on the other, widely neglected and little known. This article asks how far Petrażycki’s theories, expressed in writings by and about him available to an international readership, can provide insight for contemporary socio-legal studies – not as historical background but as living ideas. How far can his work speak to current issues and inform current debates? What obstacles stand in the way of this? Why have few international scholars engaged with his theories despite their rigour and originality? The article starts from this last issue before addressing the others. It argues that Petrażycki’s radical legal theory offers strikingly distinctive resources for rethinking issues about the role of law in multicultural societies, the nature of developing transnational law, and the significance of law as an aspect or expression of culture.
Keywords: Leon Petrażycki; socio-legal studies; law and morality; legal pluralism; cultural pluralism; Pitirim Sorokin; Georges Gurvitch; Nicholas Timasheff; transnational law; law and culture
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