The (Always) Imminent Death of the Law

30 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2006


Throughout the twentieth century, prominent legal thinkers confidently predicted that law as it has been practiced in the West for centuries was archaic and doomed to imminent extinction. Why did they think this, and why were they wrong? And why was "legal indeterminacy" such a source of anxiety to twentieth-century legal thinkers? This essay, given as a lecture at Notre Dame, suggests that the recurring predictions of law's demise and the pervasive angst about indeterminacy were manifestations of debilitating limitations in the philosophical framework within which twentieth-century thinkers understood law (and much else).

Keywords: Jurisprudence, Legal Philosophy

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Smith, Steven Douglas, The (Always) Imminent Death of the Law. San Diego Law Review, Vol. 43, 2006, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-58, Available at SSRN:

Steven Douglas Smith (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-7969 (Phone)
619-260-2492 (Fax)

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