Towards a Theory of European Union Legal Systems*

Julie Dickson

in Philosophical Foundations of European Union Law

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199588770
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191741029 | DOI:

Series: Philosophical Foundations of Law

Towards a Theory of European Union Legal Systems*

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This chapter attempts to move towards an understanding of what would be required for an adequate theoretical account of legal systems in the EU, of what might motivate such an account, and of why such an account matters. The discussion is structured as follows. Section 2 outlines some factors motivating theories of legal systems, before noting some contemporary doubts about understanding a supra-national polity such as the EU in terms of the concept of a legal system. Section 3 identifies and begins to confront some important challenges to an adequate theory of legal systems in the EU context, which are prompted by the distinctive character of EU law and its relations with other bodies of law. The discussion seeks to reveal why the concept of a legal system is important in understanding the contemporary EU, and why a legal systems analysis is well-motivated in that context, before identifying and considering some of those challenges. The concluding section reviews the importance of an adequate theory of legal systems, and considers next steps towards such a theory in the EU and other non-state contexts. In particular, it concludes by rendering explicit a distinction between two different senses of “legal system”—or, to speak more precisely, between two different kinds of criteria which play a role in determining the existence, identity, limits, and character of legal systems—which is implicit in much of the following discussion, and which will prove vitally important in future work on this topic.

Keywords: EU law; legal system; supra-national polity; non-state context

Chapter.  16508 words. 

Subjects: EU Law

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