Law, Ideology, and Power: The Marxist Tradition

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

Law, Ideology, and Power: The Marxist Tradition

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The writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on law posed problems which later Marxist theory has not resolved: How seriously is law to be taken as a focus of political concern and as a set of distinctive practices or conceptual forms? Is the character of law ultimately wholly explicable in terms of the logic of economic conditions, or the functional requirements of capitalism? Or does law have some other independent effectivity which justifies treating it as an important object of theoretical analysis in its own right? The creation of a literature devoted to the elaboration (and, in part, redisovery) of a rigorous Marxist analysis of law has been a recent intellectual growth industry. The development is clearly an aspect of wider theoretical concerns in Marxism and it also parallels a general revival of interest in law in social science. Legal theory in advanced capitalist societies has been, for decades, the almost unchallenged preserve of jurists attempting to rationalise and universalise the legal ideology and forms of professional discourse of contemporary Western law.

Keywords: Karl Marx; Marxism; law; legal ideology; legal theory; Marxist theory; capitalism; Friedrich Engels; politics; socialism

Chapter.  8128 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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