Legal pluralism’s other: mythologizing modern law

Caroline Humfress*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This article interrogates the concept of legal pluralism, as it currently tends to function within contemporary legal and historical scholarship. It argues that the concept of legal pluralism cannot 'liberate' positivist analytical legal theory from monist (municipal, state-centric etc.) straightjackets, but rather itself presumes the primacy of centralized state-issued law - at the same time as masking that primacy within a pluralist discourse. The concept of legal pluralism should be properly understood – and analyzed – as part of the mythology of modern law, not as an alternative to it.

The first two sections develop this argument via a critical tour of legal-pluralist historiography, focusing on 1986 to the present-day. The final section then moves on to explore what is at stake for the pre-modern historian when they apply (modern) concepts of legal pluralism to try to explain the multiplicity of legal orders that they invariably encounter in their own source material.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalLaw and History Review
Early online date9 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2023


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