Critique and Law: The Legacy of the Frankfurt School

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

Critique and Law: The Legacy of the Frankfurt School

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What conceptual and methological issues arise in the attempt to develop a sociologically based moral critique of law? In this context, some important ideas of the German scholar Max Horkheimer on the nature of critical theory can be related to theoretical issues presented by the development of the critical legal studies (CLS) movement in the United States. The conclusion to be drawn is that critical theory and empirical social theory are certainly compatible but critical theory introduces the demand for a ‘moral vision’ to complete and reformulate the projects of empirical social theory. In this respect, critical theory creates certain moral challenges for legal theory which must inform its interaction with the kinds of social theory already considered in previous chapters. The context of American legal education is very different from the context of legal education in Britain. The most fundamental questions about the epistemology, methods, politics, and prospects of CLS are essentially rooted in ones that the central theoreticians of the Frankfurt School faced and discussed at length.

Keywords: Frankfurt School; Max Horkheimer; law; critical legal studies; United States; Britain; legal education; critical theory; empirical social theory; moral vision

Chapter.  5185 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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