Kelsen, Hans. Pure Theory of Law. Translation from the Second German Edition by Max Knight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. x, 356 pp. Reprinted 2005 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. ISBN 1-58477-578-5. Paperbound. $36.95 * Second revised and enlarged edition, a complete revision of the first edition published in 1934. A landmark in the development of modern jurisprudence, the pure theory of law defines law as a system of coercive norms created by the state that rests on the validity of a generally accepted Grundnorm, or basic norm, such as the supremacy of the Constitution. Entirely self-supporting, it rejects any concept derived from metaphysics, politics, ethics, sociology, or the natural sciences. Beginning with the medieval reception of Roman law, traditional jurisprudence has maintained a dual system of "subjective" law (the rights of a person) and "objective" law (the system of norms). Throughout history this dualism has been a useful tool for putting the law in the service of politics, especially by rulers or dominant political parties. The pure theory of law destroys this dualism by replacing it with a unitary system of objective positive law that is insulated from political manipulation. Possibly the most influential jurisprudent of the twentieth century, Hans Kelsen [1881-1973] was legal adviser to Austria's last emperor and its first republican government, the founder and permanent advisor of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Austria, and the author of Austria's Constitution, which was enacted in 1920, abolished during the Anschluss, and restored in 1945. The author of more than forty books on law and legal philosophy, he is best known for this work and General Theory of Law and State. Also active as a teacher in Europe and the United States, he was Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna and taught at the universities of Cologne and Prague, the Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Harvard, Wellesley, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Naval War College.Also available in cloth.
Reprint of the first edition. This classic work by the important Austrian jurist is the fullest exposition of his enormously influential pure theory of law, which includes a theory of the state. It also has an extensive appendix that discusses the pure theory in comparison with the law of nature, positivism, historical natural law, metaphysical dualism and scientific-critical philosophy. "The scope of the work is truly universal. It never loses itself in vague generalities or in unconnected fragments of thought. On the contrary, precision in the formulation of details and rigorous system are characteristic features of the exposition: only a mind fully concentrated upon that logical structure can possibly follow Kelsen's penetrating analysis. Such a mind will not shrink from the effort necessary for acquainting itself with...the pure theory of law in its more general aspects, and will then pass over to the theory of the state which ends up with a carefully worked out theory of international law." Julius Kraft, American Journal of International Law 40 (1946):496.
By showing how Kelsen's theory of law works alongside his political philosophy, the book shows the Pure Theory to be part of a wider attempt to understand how political power can be legitimately exercised in pluralist societies.
Most contemporary legal philosophers tend to take force to be an accessory to the law. According to this prevalent view the law primarily consists of a series of demands made on us; force, conversely, comes into play only when these demands fail to be satisfied. This book claims that this model should be jettisoned in favour of a radically different one: according to the proposed view, force is not an accessory to the law but rather its attribute. The law is not simply a set of rules incidentally guaranteed by force, but it should be understood as essentially rules about force. The book explores in detail the nature of this claim and develops its corollaries. It then provides an overview of the contemporary jurisprudential debates relating to force and violence, and defends its claims against well-known counter-arguments by Hart, Raz and others. This book offers an innovative insight into the concept of Pure Theory. In contrast to what was claimed by Hans Kelsen, the most eminent contributor to this theory, the author argues that the core insight of the Pure Theory is not to be found in the concept of a basic norm, or in the supposed absence of a conceptual relation between law and morality, but rather in the fundamental and comprehensive reformulation of how to model the functioning of the law intended as an ordering of force and violence.
Forty years after his death, Hans Kelsen (1881-1973) remains one of the most discussed and influential legal philosophers of our time. This collection of new essays takes Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law as a stimulus, aiming to move forward the debate on several central issues in contemporary jurisprudence. The essays in Part I address legal validity, the normativity of law, and Kelsen's famous but puzzling idea of a legal system's 'basic norm'. Part II engages with the difficult issues raised by the social realities of law and the actual practices of legal officials. Part III focuses on conceptual features of legal systems and the logical structure of legal norms. All the essays were written for this volume by internationally renowned scholars from seven countries. Also included, in English translation, is an important polemical essay by Kelsen himself.
Hans Kelsen is considered to be one of the foremost legal theorists and philosophers of the twentieth century. His writing made an important contribution to many areas, especially those of legal theory and international law. Over a number of decades, he developed an important legal theory which found its first complete exposition in Reine Rechtslehre, or Pure Theory of Law, the first edition of which was published in Vienna in 1934. This is the first English translation of that work. It covers such topics as law and morality, the legal system and its hierarchical structure, the identity of law and state, and international law.
Positivist legal theorists inspired by Kelsen's work failed to appreciate the political-theoretical potential of the Pure Theory of Law and thus turned to a narrow agnosticism about the functions of law. The Pure Theory of Law, I conclude, may offer a paradigm of jurisprudential thought that could reconnect jurisprudence with political theory as it was traditionally understood: namely as a reflection on the best constitution and on the contribution that different legal actors and institutions can make to its realization.
Hans Kelsen is considered by many to be the foremost legal thinker of the twentieth century. During the last decade of his life he was working on what he called a general theory of norms. Published posthumously in 1979 as Allgemeine Theorie der Normen, the book is here translated for the first time into English. Kelsen develops his "pure theory of law" into a "general theory of norms", and analyzes the applicability of logic to norms to offer an original and extreme position which some have called "normative irrationalism". Examining the views of over 200 philosophers and legal theorists on law, morality, and logic, and revising several of his own earlier positions, Kelsen's final work is a mandatory resource for legal and moral philosophers.