Sociological Perspectives on Legal Closure

Roger Cotterrell

in Law's Community

Published in print February 1997 | ISBN: 9780198264903
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682858 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Socio-Legal Studies

Sociological Perspectives on Legal Closure

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Legal closure implies diverse but interconnected understandings of law. This chapter sets out to defend the utility of a sociological perspective, or set of perspectives, on legal closure. It distinguishes two approaches to legal closure: normative closure and discursive closure. The aim here is not to show that conceptions of normative or discursive legal closure are misguided in the particular contexts in which these conceptions have been developed, but that they can be reconsidered in a broader sociological perspective. Such a perspective ultimately denies that law is adequately understood as a ‘closed’ system, knowledge field, intellectual discipline, or discourse. But it recognises the social conditions that may make law so appear, or which seem to impel the ‘legal’ to seek to achieve ‘closure’ in a variety of ways. Viewed sociologically, legal closure can be treated primarily as a means by which various forms of legal or political practice attempt to enhance their own legitimacy. Autopoiesis theory, developed in relation to law by Niklas Lubmann and Gunther Teubner, postulates a form of legal closure as radical as any to be found or implied in the literature of legal philosophy.

Keywords: legal closure; legitimacy; normative closure; discursive closure; autopoiesis theory; law; sociological perspective; legal philosophy; social conditions

Chapter.  7726 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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