The limits of legal pluralism

Jonathan Crowe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Sionaidh Douglas-Scott’s book, Law after Modernity, outlines a sophisticated theory of legal pluralism. The book makes extensive use of artworks and other cultural images to draw out law’s social meanings. I explore Douglas-Scott’s comments on the relationship between art and law through reference to Michèle Le Doeuff’s work on the philosophical imaginary. I then address her views on legal pluralism. Douglas-Scott argues that legal positivism’s failure to adequately capture the complexity of contemporary legal orders makes legal pluralism preferable as a descriptive theory of law. However, she distances herself from claims that legal pluralism also offers a normatively desirable view of law, arguing that it needs to be supplemented by a theory of critical legal justice. Douglas-Scott shows a commendable awareness of legal pluralism’s descriptive insights and its normative limits, but her account of critical legal justice remains highly tentative. What, then, lies in the unmapped terrain beyond the limits of legal pluralism? I suggest the answer lies in overcoming the central assumption shared by both legal positivism and legal pluralism: the idea of law as a product of human authority

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-331
Number of pages18
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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