Norms in Perspective: Norms about norms - a Hartian perspective

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


My purpose in this article is to make a contribution to what the legal philosopher H.L.A. Hart (1907-1992) has to say about providing a sociological understanding of law and to apply Hart's theory in relation to a specific area of law. The specific legal area consists of the violation compensation that victims of crime can obtain from the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority in Sweden. The ambition in the following article is to relate Hart’s theory to other theories that are usually of interest in Sociology of Law, in particular the relationship between legal and social norms in general, in order to stress the social and cultural basis of law (Cotterrell 1992, Tuori, 2002), rather than to embellish Hart’s theory at such.
For Hart, one of the most significant contemporary legal positivists with high relevance for socio-legal research, law is ultimately the outcome of institutional activity resulting from the individual and which law “officials” recognize as legally valid (Galligan 2007: 7, Friedrichs 2006: 95). Hart's main contribution is that he stratifies legal rules into primary rules, mostly concerning orders and prohibitions, or rules of behaviour, and indirect secondary rules, specifying the criteria for legal validity and governing the use of the primary rules. The principal of the secondary rules is labelled the rule of recognition that determines which norms belong to – or do not belong to – a particular legal system. The recognition rule is therefore akin to a potent meta-norm and its existence and authority is, for Hart, an open empirical issue about sociological facts regarding the social pressure among other things (Hart 1997: 94, 292).


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society


  • Hart, Norms, Metanorm, Wittgenstein, rules, Law, Compensation, Sociology of Law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial and Legal Norms
EditorsMatthias Baier
ISBN (Print)978-1-4094-5343-7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch