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date: 28 September 2023

p. 1736. Legal realismlocked

p. 1736. Legal realismlocked

  • Raymond WacksRaymond WacksEmeritus Professor of Law and Legal Theory


This chapter first addresses the question: What are realists realistic about? It discusses how this movement had little time for ‘theory’, and regarded the essence of law as what courts actually do in practice. The leading exponents of American realism: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, Karl Llewellyn, and Jerome Frank are discussed. They have been criticized for their obsession with courts, juries, lawyers and other features of the legal system, but are regarded as an important bridge to the sociological approach to law. The chapter then examines the Scandinavian realists: Alf Ross and Karl Olivecrona whose approach, while it is described as ‘realist’, is markedly different from their American counterparts. The relationship between Scandinavian realism and psychology is briefly considered.

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