Tracing Critical Realism in the Work of Åström

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The aim of this chapter is to discuss the possibilities of a critical realist sociology of law set against the background of the work of Professor Karsten Åström. Thus, in the next section I give a short description of Åström’s ”sociolegal stance”, and specifically his concept of parallel norm creating processes. I then proceed, in the third section, to describe the basics of Roy Bhaskar’s critical realism as a philosophy of science. This is followed in the fourth section by the recapitulation of Bhaskar’s own dialectical critical realism (DCR), which is built on the dialectics of Hegel and Marx. In section five, I move on to the legal theory of the critical realist law professor Alan Norrie with a focus on Norrie’s critique of ”liberal law”. Thereafter, in section six, I specifically highlight Norrie’s call for a sociology of law in the spirit of DCR, beyond legal positivist and poststructuralist conceptions of law. Then, in section seven, I discuss the potential critical realism of Åström’s work by reflecting on the analysis model of legal regulation (AMLR), applied in analyses of legal norms, e.g., in social service agencies. This is followed by how conceiving of AMLR dialectically may enable new ways for understanding social conflicts and social change in the field of social welfare. This is, in the final section, demonstrated by the case of EU migrants residing legally in Sweden but without the right to social welfare. In this case, an external social institution, an NGO, succeeded to influence, open up and ultimately collaborate with the local public administration, resulting in new policy with the potential to improve the living conditions for the migrants.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFestskrift till Karsten Åström
EditorsKarl Dahlstrand
Place of PublicationLund
PublisherJuristförlaget i Lund
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-91-544-0569-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 14

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
  • Social Work


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