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date: 25 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers what might be called the ‘realist puzzle’: How can scholars who otherwise agree on very little all see themselves as legal realists? It suggests four possible explanations, not mutually exclusive: (a) that the Realists’ ideas were banal and obvious; (b) that they identified something fundamental that—despite all other differences—all contemporary legal scholars now accept; (c) that different people simply identified in the realists whatever they had already believed; and finally (d) that the Realists were less consistent than people commonly assume. Although there is little direct discussion of the realist puzzle in writings on legal realism, it is a useful framework for considering some current trends in scholarship on legal realism, in a way that helps put some recent discussions in a new light.

Keywords: legal history, legal realism, legal realists, realist puzzle, legal scholars

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