Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Peter Goodrich describes the plight of contemporary legal theory with concise accuracy: We have abandoned natural law foundations originally constructed in ecclesiastical venues only to find that the project of developing a secular legal language capable of transforming the management of social conflict into questions of technical rationality is doomed to failure. The ascendancy of analytic legal positivism has purchased conceptual rigor at the cost of separating the analysis of legal validity from moral acceptability, but retreat from this stale conceptualism and a return to traditional natural law precepts appears wildly implausible. The irrelevance of the natural law tradition in contemporary jurisprudential discourse would appear to be sealed by the “interpretive turn” in legal theory, which in its most general outline asserts that universal and eternal principles have been replaced by hermeneutical fluidity and historical contingency. In the wake of the interpretive turn it is reasonable to expect that legal theorists will turn not to the natural law tradition, but to radical postmodern and deconstructive styles of theorizing in their effort to move beyond legal positivism.

Publication Citation

11 Yale J. L. & Human. 311 (1999)