Norms - We Never Close: Reflections on Laws & Orders*

(*) This brief note is drawn from a presentation delivered at Roma Tre on 19 May 2015, and, far more distantly from ‘“Things being various”: normativity, legality, state legality’ for M Adams and D Heirbaut (eds), The method and culture of comparative law: essays in honour of Mark Van Hoecke (2014).

Norms (Photo)In a series of papers and presentations over the last few years, I’ve insisted, as a comparative lawyer and legal historian, that the study of law must be comparative across both space and time. Such a perspective makes clear that law and legality are folk concepts rather than universals, distinguished both from (i) norms and normativity generally and (ii) specifically state laws and state legality. Or so I’ll suggest briefly here. 

Normativityis an obvious and common aspect of human communities. Standards of right conduct or claims, of oughtness or appropriateness, are ubiquitous. We are normative animals. But even if there exists some normative baseline for the species (as natural lawyers suggest) or common institutional patterns for groups (as numerous others maintain), communities nevertheless express normativity and specific norms in radically diverse ways.

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