Law, Materiality & Justice

Peter Bergwall, Karl Dahlstrand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch


Can law still play a central role in governing human behavior even if the state law may have become less important? Whether law without the state is possible depends, of course, on how we define “law” and “state”. But it also depends on the perspective from which one approaches the legal material. From a sociology of law perspective, as will be presented in this chapter, the topic has a slightly different signification and consequence than within traditional legal dogmatics. After all, going back to the pioneers of sociological jurisprudence and sociology of law as, for example, Roscoe Pound (1870-1964) and Eugene Ehrlich (1862-1922), we hear the echoes of a time when the state had not yet grown so strong (Berman 1983). Surely, the times of Pound and Ehrlich were characterized less by “state-law” compared to present times. Still, would we describe the early 20th Century as governed by “non-state law”?
In the first section, Materialism Revisited, we briefly show how materialism with roots in Marxian and Althusserian thought is making its way back into social theory. The implication is a challenge of importunate dichotomies, such as the social subject/object and the legal ought/is. In the next section, we proceed with the theoretical developments, labelled new materialism, emphasizing the flows generated by social and legal structures, rather than the structures per se. We then proceed to one of the main objectives of this chapter, the discussion building on the argument that materialist conceptions are essential in empirically grounded justice theories. Hence, the Justice section includes a brief overview of classical justice theories, followed by the critique of them, and a proposition that materialistic, evidencebased procedural justice theories are better equipped for socio-legal research compared to more idealistically grounded justice theories. We then present a research project which is about how distributive and procedural justice affects the intention to disclose personal health information in online contexts. We conclude by stating that, what we label emergent social order, i.e., the interplay between law, materiality and social normativity, is important for understanding the current condition, which is characterized by some as governed by “non-state law”.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScandinavian Studies in Law
Subtitle of host publicationLaw without the state
EditorsPeter Wahlgren
Place of PublicationStockholm
PublisherStockholm: Stockholm Institute for Scandinavian Law
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9789185142767
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Nov 3

Publication series

NameScandinavian Studies in Law

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society


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