The Social Construction of the Concept of Law: A Reply to Julie Dickson

14 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2005

See all articles by Frederick Schauer

Frederick Schauer

University of Virginia School of Law


In Evaluation and Legal Theory, Julie Dickson argues, against me and against Hart, that the beneficial moral consequences attaching to accepting one or another concept of law should have no place in deciding which concept of law is true. In response, I argue that a concept of law, as both Dickson and I acknowledge, is subject to change over time, and may vary across cultures. Yet once we recognize that the concept of law is contingent and variable, we can recognize that prescribing what the concept of law ought to be is no less plausible an enterprise than describing what our concept of law now is. And for the prescriptive enterprise, although plainly not for the descriptive one, the beneficial moral consequences flowing from accepting a particular concept of law are an unavoidable component of the task.

Keywords: jurisprudence, conceptual analysis, philosophy of law

Suggested Citation

Schauer, Frederick, The Social Construction of the Concept of Law: A Reply to Julie Dickson. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 25, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Frederick Schauer (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-6777 (Phone)

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