Wesley Hohfeld's Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning (Annotated and Edited)
Wesley Hohfeld a Century Later: Edited Work, Select Personal Papers, and Original Commentaries (Shyam Balganesh, Ted Sichelman & Henry Smith eds., Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2021)
57 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2021 Last revised: 27 Apr 2021
Date Written: January 31, 2021
Wesley Hohfeld was an important legal theorist from the early 20th century. His article, "Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning," which appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 1913, is one of the most-cited law articles of all time. It has had a profound impact not only in the field of jurisprudence but also on numerous scholars, lawyers, and jurists more broadly, notably including the drafters of the Restatement (First) of Property and judges of the U.S. Supreme Court and many lower courts. Although the article was intended for students, in actuality, it has been quite difficult to parse for students and professors alike. This chapter offers an annotated and slightly condensed version of the article. Textual annotations aim to explain key paragraphs and sentences in fairly basic terms, while footnote annotations are intended for scholars wishing to take a “deep dive” into the Hohfeldian typology. Although the chapter’s analysis generally endorses Hohfeld’s assertions, in part, it also provides friendly critique. This critique, along with careful interpretation of the original text, aligns Hohfeld’s typology more closely—though not completely—with a formalist approach than previous characterizations in the legal literature, which have largely viewed the typology and Hohfeld’s work as an early foray into legal realism.
Keywords: Wesley Hohfeld, fundamental legal conceptions, legal relations, legal realism, legal formalism, rights, powers, duties, deontic logic, private law, property, torts, contracts
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation