Critical legal studies

Emilios Christodoulidis and Johan van der Walt

in The Oxford Handbook of Legal History

Published in print August 2018 | ISBN: 9780198794356
Published online September 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780191837739 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Critical legal studies

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  • History of Law
  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law


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This chapter traces the tradition of critical theory in Europe in the way it has informed and framed legal thought. A key, and distinctive, element of this legal tradition is that it characteristically connects to the state as constitutive reference; in other words it understands the institution of law as that which organizes and mediates the relation of the state to civil society. The other constitutive reference is political economy, a reference that typically grounds this tradition of thinking about the law in the materiality of the practices of social production and reproduction. It is in these connections, of the institution of law to the domains of the state and of the political economy, that critical legal theory locates the function of law, and the emancipatory potentially it affords on the one hand, and the obstacles to emancipation it imposes, on the other.

Keywords: critical theory; Europe; legal history; legal thought; state; civil society; political economy

Article.  11734 words. 

Subjects: History of Law ; Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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