Toward a Jurisprudence of  Social Values


Legal theory wrestles perennially with a variety of seemingly intractable problems. I include among them questions about what we are doing when we interpret legal texts, the distinctions between hard and easy cases and between rules and standards, and the meaning of the rule of law. I argue in this essay that we can, in fact, make substantial progress toward clarifying these problems and making them much more intelligible by keeping in mind the role that social values play in law. And that role is fundamental: social values constitute the law.

Part I sketches a jurisprudential framework for thinking about the relationship of social values to law. Part II suggests the utility of that framework by showing how it casts new and revealing light on the important jurisprudential puzzles noted above – puzzles about interpretation, hard and easy cases, rules and standards, and the rule of law.


Jurisprudence, Legal Theory, Social Values



Richard K. Greenstein (Temple University)



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