© 2017

Kelsenian Legal Science and the Nature of Law

  • Peter Langford
  • Ian Bryan
  • John McGarry


  • Offers a detailed critical analysis of the distinctive Kelsenian approach to the nature of law

  • Unique in being the first to conduct such an analysis in the English language

  • Features the work of a range of established European scholars


Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 118)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Peter Langford, Ian Bryan, John McGarry
    Pages 1-19
  3. Legal Science Before the Tribunal of Validity

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 21-21
  4. Beyond Natural Law?

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 55-55
  5. Kelsen’s Constitutionalism

  6. Against Practical Reason

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 119-119
    2. Francesco Viola
      Pages 121-139
    3. Isabel Lifante Vidal
      Pages 141-152
    4. José Manuel Cabra Apalategui
      Pages 153-170
  7. Legal Science and Human Rights

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 171-171
    2. Véronique Champeil-Desplats
      Pages 173-191
  8. The Triumph of Legal Science?

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 239-239

About this book


This book critically examines the conception of legal science and the nature of law developed by Hans Kelsen. It provides a single, dedicated space for a range of established European scholars to engage with the influential work of this Austrian jurist, legal philosopher, and political philosopher.

The introduction provides a thematization of the Kelsenian notion of law as a legal science. Divided into six parts, the chapter contributions feature distinct levels of analysis. Overall, the structure of the book provides a sustained reflection upon central aspects of Kelsenian legal science and the nature of law.

Parts one and two examine the validity of the project of Kelsenian legal science with particular reference to the social fact thesis, the notion of a science of positive law and the specifically Kelsenian concept of the basic norm (Grundnorm). The next three parts engage in a critical analysis of the relationship of Kelsenian legal science to constitutionalism, practical reason, and human rights.

The last part involves an examination of the continued pertinence of Kelsenian legal science as a theory of the nature of law with a particular focus upon contemporary non-positivist theories of law. The conclusion discusses the increasing distance of contemporary theories of legal positivism from a Kelsenian notion of legal science in its consideration of the nature of law.


Legal Philosophy Legal Positivism Legal Science Hans Kelsen Kelsenian Legal Science Natural Law and the Nature of Law Kelsen’s Paradox Kelsen's Constitutionalism Constitutionalism and Value-Free Method Kelsen's Theory of Legal Interpretation Legal Science And Human Rights Kelsen on Democracy

Editors and affiliations

  • Peter Langford
    • 1
  • Ian Bryan
    • 2
  • John McGarry
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Law and CriminologyEdge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Lancaster University Law SchoolLancasterUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of Law and CriminologyEdge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUnited Kingdom

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