Legal Pluralism and Human Agency




Webber, Jeremy

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Osgoode Hall Law Journal


Much legal-pluralist scholarship tends to naturalize "the law of the context," treating that law as though it were inherent in social interaction, emerging spontaneously, without conscious human decision. This view overstates the role of agreement in human societies and mischaracterizes the nature of law, including non-state law. All law is concerned with establishing a collective set of norms against a backdrop of normative disagreement, not agreement. It necessarily contains mechanisms for bringing contention to a provisional close, imposing a collective solution. This article presents a theory of legal pluralism that takes human disagreement seriously. The theory retains four themes crucial to legal pluralism: the hermeneutic theme, the plural theme, the adaptive theme, and the decentring theme. It also helps us to identify two modes common in legal analysis-the descriptive and the hortatory mode-which are quite different, though often confused. In doing so it provides a compelling, pluralist conception of law, one that takes human disagreement seriously.



Legal polycentricity, Agent (Philosophy), Law


Webber, J. (2006). Legal pluralism and human agency. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 44(1), 167-198.