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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the tradition of critical theory in Europe in the way it has informed and framed legal thought. A key, and distinctive, element of this legal tradition is that it characteristically connects to the state as constitutive reference; in other words it understands the institution of law as that which organizes and mediates the relation of the state to civil society. The other constitutive reference is political economy, a reference that typically grounds this tradition of thinking about the law in the materiality of the practices of social production and reproduction. It is in these connections, of the institution of law to the domains of the state and of the political economy, that critical legal theory locates the function of law, and the emancipatory potentially it affords on the one hand, and the obstacles to emancipation it imposes, on the other.

Keywords: critical theory, Europe, legal history, legal thought, state, civil society, political economy

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