Towards a Fruitful Cooperation between Legal Philosophy, Legal Sociology and Doctrinal Research: How Legal Interactionism May Bridge Unproductive Oppositions

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Abstract

Taking our cue from Roger Cotterrell, we believe that legal philosophy, legal sociology and doctrinal legal scholarship can and should be co-workers in order to gain a full understanding of law in all its facets. In this article, the problems of integrating legal philosophy, legal sociology and doctrinal research are considered. We want to address one important difference that often frustrates successful co-operation between legal sociologists, legal philosophers, and doctrinal researchers. That difference is that they rely on different – implicit or explicit – understandings of law, on different concepts and definitions. We can discern four basic oppositions regarding the understanding of law. The most basic opposition is that which has become known under the slightly misleading title of law in the books versus law in action. The second is that between monism and pluralism.The third is that between a focus on the variable and changing characteristics of law and a focus on law as timeless or static.The fourth is that between instrumentalist and non-instrumentalist views of law. It is important to find ways to transcend these oppositions or at least to understand them as emphasising different aspects of one common framework in order to transcend the divide between legal philosophy and legal sociology. Our claim is that legal interactionism provides such a theoretical approach as it offers a means to overcome these four oppositions. Legal interactionism accepts both interactional law and enacted law as law. Therefore, it is very oecumenical in spirit. This broad approach enables us to understand the different poles as part of a full analysis of law, and offers perspectives for integrating the partial insights that a focus on merely one pole can provide.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw, Society and Community. Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell
EditorsR. Nobles, D. Schiff
Place of PublicationFarnham
Pages129-145
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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