Pure theory of law

The quotation comes from Laski's Grammar of Politics, in which he suggests that, given its postulates. Kelsen's 'pure theory' of law is unanswerable, but that its substance is an exercise in logic, not in life. Many of the criticisms directed against the 'pure theory' do rest, indeed, on what is perceived as its aridity and seperation from the realities of legal activity within the community. But there are other important criticisms, some of which are mentioned below, based on the implications of Kelsen's methodology of enquiry.

The target of these criticisms is a theory which emerges from an attempt to view law purely in terms of reason and in a manner which excludes all ethical and political value-judgements. Law is as a coercive order, based on a system of norms, the validity of which is derived from a basic norm a major criticism, encapsulated in Laski's comment, is that the theory chooses to disregard the totality of a society in which law plays a relatively restricted, though important, role.

To abstract from a consideration of the law its surrounding social and political factors is, it is argued, virtually impossible, even if it were desirable. Law does not exist as an isolate: it is affected in considerable measure by the dynamic nature of the community of which it is a part a perusal of any aspect of our common law and current legislation indicated the difficulties inherent in any attempt at investigating the law as a phenomenon 'in itself'. Thus, the law relating to theft may have little 'meaning' save as an expression of communal ethical attitudes to the ownership and possession of property.

The European Communities Act 1972 expressed political and economic ideologies. The Children Act 1989 articulates deep and complex concepts of the community's social responsibilities. Remove discussion of the inner significance of legislation of this nature, and one is left merely with 'form' as an object of study-it has been given un warranted primacy over 'meaning'. RESULTS OF HIS FAILURE TO EXAMINE LAW IN ITS SOCIAL SETTING An allied criticism is based on Kelsen's decision to ignore the concept of 'justice' and on his apparent lack of concern for the nature and significance of human rights.

Kelsen seems to view 'justice' as a mere expression of an irrational idea. Because it is not subject to scientific cognition or investigation, it is not to be considered as having any role in the foundations of law. For Kelsen it involves little more than 'the conscientious application of appropriate general rules'. Justice as a measure of the validity of laws is rejected. Hence a concept which, for many communities and jurists, is seen as expressing the end of law, is dismissed by Kelsen because it appears to be beyonf the pale of cognition.

But because legal life as we know and experience it is consciously based upon a desire to act in accordance with the tenets of justice, and because unjust behaviour is generally unacceptable, Kelsen's doctrine gives the impression of ignoring the complex and deeply-held feelings which characterise much legal activity. It is worth nothing, too, that the history of this century gives little reason to view with equanimity the promulgation of a systematic interpretation of law from which the concept of justice has been banished. 4. his attitude to a study of justice and rights

the exclusion of 'justice' from the 'pure theory' has led some critics to question not only the resulting sterling of its findings, but the claim advanced by Kelsen to have 'explained' the reality of the law. It is suggested that, in dogmatic fashion, he has limited the data he wishes to explore to some positive legal matters while ignoring substantice, conceptual legal realities. The result is no more than a highly selective and incomplete investigation. The 'reality' of the theory is flawed by a misconceived approach to so called 'objective phenomena'.

Criticisms of the theory in relation to sanctions and obligations the place of force ('coercion) in the pure theory has evoked adverse comment. There is no explicit assertion in the theory that law is only force, but there is an inference that the effectiveness of law seem to be based solely on force or sanction. All law must possess ' an apparatus of compulsion', Kelsen argues, and the essence of law is in duty, not in right. One's legal duty is as the law commands, with coercion available for the enforcement of norms.

But critics have suggested that this is a confusion of 'coercion' and 'obligation'. It is because a rule is considered by the community as obligatory that it is possible to attach to it some measure of coercion; the rule is not obligatory merely because there is coercion. The rules relating to individual physical inviolability are considered by most communities to be of an obligatory nature and therefore penalties are attached to their breach; the rules embodied in the OAPA 1861, are not considered as obligatory merely because of the sanctions contained therein.

Further, Kelsen is said to have ignorned the discussions on communal attitudes to obligation, punishments, etc, which form the content of important work in the social sciences. Kelsen's norms seem to be little more than formal, authoritarian commands enforced by whose who happen to have a monopoly of force within the community. This has been criticised as a caricature of real life. : laws are not obeyed merely because of threatened sanctions; some statutes impose duties without the threat of any sanction.

Duties and sanctions require separate definitions because, in reality, they are not conterminous. 6. problems of the Grundnorm the concept of the Grundnorm (the 'basic norm'), which is central to the 'pure theory', is not without its critics. The basic norm ('presupposed in juristic thinking') is that which is said to give a unity to the legal system in that it tops the pyramid of norms and gives those norms their validity.

This has been condemned as mere fiction, or as being little more than Austin's 'sovereign' in disguise, or as a mythical 'first cause' betond which one ought not to venture in any investigation of law. A statement such as 'the first constitution must be obeyed' is criticised as self-contradictory. The reasons why the law is obeyed, argue the critics, are to be found in more than one so-called 'fundamental reason' and certainly not in any fictitious basic norm, the very existence of which rarely figures in the conscious responses of citizens to their legal obligations.

Further, if one considers the activities of the community's judges, the Grundnorm will not explain the many 'non-rule standards' which jurists such as Dworkin perceive as entering into decisions of the courts. Judges probably take into account, during the process of adjudication, much more than formal rules: they keep in mind wide principles and communal policies-the very matters which Kelsen seeks to exclude from a formulation of the essence of law. 7.

investigating law in terms of the pure theory The very search for a Grundnorm within a legal system will be affected by the personal value-judgements of the investigator—so runs a common criticism of the methodology of Kelsen's supporters. Further, it is very difficult to investigate the validity of Kelsen's test of a 'minimum of support' for a basic norm without enquiring into surrounding political and social facts-an unacceptable state of affairs for advocates of the 'pure theory'.

If, for example, it is assumed by these advocates that the basic norm of a community is 'belief in the divinity of the law-giver', or in his charismatic law-making, it would be almost impossible to discover the level of support for that belief without enquiring into ways in which the law-maker's subjects are affected in practice, and that would necessitate investigation of a variety of social matters of a 'non-legal' nature. 8. INTERNATIONAL LAW The problems raised by the existence of international law have been viewed by critics as constituting a basic obligation to the 'pure theory'.

In Kelsen's view, international law can be interpreted correctly as 'judicial order' which may be understood within the boundaries of a 'normative science of law'. But it appears that international law lacks a number of characteristics of a 'legal order' in Kelsen's sense. It has no developed apparatus of compulsion and apparently no Grundnorm. Kelsen's reply to this objection suggests an acceptance of war and reprisals as constituting the 'international sanction'. This, for many jurists, involves a negation of the spirit and essential purpose of the doctrine of international law.

Further, it may be that a multiplicity of basic norms is required for the interpretation of the complex structure of the law of nations, but this would certainly offend the austere sense of parsimony which is characteristic of the 'pure theory'. 9. Allen's cricism There are, then, many points in Kelsen's theory at which evidence emerges suggesting a lack of correspondence pf its express and implied doctrines and legal life as we know it to be. The theory, it has been said, has no application to the everyday problems of the law; it solves none of the recurring difficulties which face legislators and judges.

If the 'proper business' of a positivist jurist be with the actual operations of the law, then Kelsen might be considered as having contributed little to an understanding of those operations. Allen suggests that, in Kelsen's anxiety to keep perception of the law 'pure', he has raised it to such an inaccessible altitude that 'it has difficulty in drawing the breath of life'. Geny, writing before Kelsen, had warned against the 'palpable illusion' of attempting to erect a pure judicial science on the postulates of 'an inevitable and imperious logic', with the result that what is created is barren and without value.

It is, perhaps, this criticism which Laski had in mind in his comment on Kelsen. 10. conclusion (unacceptable narrowness of the theory's base. It is paradoxical that Kelsen, criticised for remoteness and a prediction for authoritarian jurisprudence, both of which are said to be evident in the 'pure theory', should have been, in fact, a jurist who was intensely concerned with the practicalities of the law.

He had rejected authoritarianism by choosing exile from his native Austria which was under totalitarian rule, and he made a fundamental contribution to the legal foundations of the United Nations in hid commentaries on the basis of UN proposals for international security. His concern was to give to legal science a methodology which would enable the law-no matter what its form or origins might be -to be understood.

The resulting edifice seems to have been constructed, however, from postulates and perceptions which ignored the peculiar richness and complexities of developed legal systems; its basis is now seen by some jurists as being unacceptably narrow. It may be that any attempt to create a ratified 'pure theory' which involves separating law from custom, tradition, communal conceptions of justice and morality, will succeed only in erecting a system of jurisdictional thought which, no matter how logical its methodology may be, is, in the event at variance with the life of the law.