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Law's CommunityLegal Theory in Sociological Perspective$
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Roger Cotterrell

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198264903

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198264903.001.0001

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Sociological Perspectives on Legal Closure

Sociological Perspectives on Legal Closure

(p.91) 5 Sociological Perspectives on Legal Closure
Law's Community

Roger Cotterrell

Oxford University Press

Legal closure implies diverse but interconnected understandings of law. This chapter sets out to defend the utility of a sociological perspective, or set of perspectives, on legal closure. It distinguishes two approaches to legal closure: normative closure and discursive closure. The aim here is not to show that conceptions of normative or discursive legal closure are misguided in the particular contexts in which these conceptions have been developed, but that they can be reconsidered in a broader sociological perspective. Such a perspective ultimately denies that law is adequately understood as a ‘closed’ system, knowledge field, intellectual discipline, or discourse. But it recognises the social conditions that may make law so appear, or which seem to impel the ‘legal’ to seek to achieve ‘closure’ in a variety of ways. Viewed sociologically, legal closure can be treated primarily as a means by which various forms of legal or political practice attempt to enhance their own legitimacy. Autopoiesis theory, developed in relation to law by Niklas Lubmann and Gunther Teubner, postulates a form of legal closure as radical as any to be found or implied in the literature of legal philosophy.

Keywords:   legal closure, legitimacy, normative closure, discursive closure, autopoiesis theory, law, sociological perspective, legal philosophy, social conditions

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