Conceptual Theories of Law and the Challenge of Global Legal Pluralism: A Legal Interactionist Approach

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One of the perennial discussions in legal philosophy is: What is law? Theories that elucidate the concept of law and provide definitions may be called conceptual theories of law. For such conceptual theories, global legal pluralism presents at least four major challenges. First, it recognizes a wide variety of types of law. Second, it recognizes a wide variety of law-producing actors. Third, it accepts that legal orders may gradually emerge. Fourth, legal orders overlap and are intertwined in many ways. We may discern three different strategies to deal with these challenges: monist, relativist, and pluralist. This chapter defends a pluralist approach, namely legal interactionism. It builds on American pragmatism, especially on the work of Lon Fuller and Philip Selznick. Legal interactionism recognizes interactional law as a source for legal obligations, but also accepts that contract and enacted law may constitute relatively autonomous legal orders in their own right. This chapter focuses on how it implies conceptual pluralism and definitional pluralism, and then discusses how this enables it to deal adequately with the four challenges global legal pluralism presents. Legal interactionism emphasizes that the concept of law is plural in character and can best be analyzed in terms of a dynamic family resemblance. If there is not one unified concept of law, but a plurality of defensible, partly incompatible conceptions, there cannot be one general definition of law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Global Legal Pluralism
EditorsP.S. Berman
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780197516744
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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