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Copyright (c) 1988 Northwestern University Law Review
Northwestern University Law Review

COMMENTARY: SOCIAL THEORY AND THE LAW: SYSTEMS THEORY, NORMATIVE JUSTIFICATION, AND POSTMODERNISM.

FALL, 1988 / WINTER, 1989

83 Nw. U.L. Rev. 398

Author

Craig Calhoun *

Excerpt

Why should anyone interested in the law care about its potential or actual relationship to social theory? Or, put another way, for what should a legal theorist look to social theory? There are a variety of answers that place social theory in an external, supporting role: Social theory might, for example, provide useful accounts of social institutions such as business corporations and families, including how organizational constraints affect individual actions. Social theory might offer analyses of why certain social arrangements persist despite legislative and judicial efforts to change them, or of what range of differences inform legally similar social practices in different cultural contexts. Although such contributions might be useful, they suggest a sharp division of labor in which social theory speaks only externally to legal theory. Yet, just as law is a part of society, not something separate to be related to society, 1 so legal theory is part of the same enterprise with social theory. Legal theorists must inevitably work with implicit accounts of what social life is like, of what the range of possibilities open for its change may be, of how individual action relates to social structure, and of what holds society together. So to be interested in social theory is only to be interested in making more explicit something which legal theorists have in fact been doing all along. And indeed, in earlier generations important social theorists often began their training as legal scholars. 2

There is, however, another equally important set of reasons ...
 
 
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