A Fuller Understanding of Legal Validity and Soft Law

  • Bart van KlinkEmail author
  • Oliver W. Lembcke
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 122)


Soft law appears to be the “bastard child” of law. Because of its dubious origin, soft law is not officially recognized, in positivist conceptions of law, as legally valid law. At the same time, the legal relevance of soft law is hard to deny. Soft law does generate rights and duties that the parties at hand, and even sometimes state officials, perceive as legally binding. How to make sense of soft law? Is it law or nonlaw, or something in between, law that is emerging or not yet law? Is it really soft and, if so, in what sense? In this chapter, two different approaches to legal validity and soft law will be confronted with each other. Firstly, we will present Kelsen’s conception of legal validity, which still is one of the prevailing positivist conceptions and very close to the traditional lawyer’s internal perspective on law. Secondly, we will discuss the interactionist theory of legal validity, as developed by Lon L. Fuller. Finally, the two opposing approaches will be compared and evaluated. Building on an interactionist approach, we will explore how we can account for the legal relevance of soft law, without rejecting it all too easily as nonlaw.


Legal positivism Source thesis Interactionism Legislation theory Governance Social regulation Managerial direction Hard and soft law Customary law Law and morality Validity and efficacy of law Instrumentalism Kelsen Fuller Oakeshott 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Legal Theory and Legal HistoryAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of Public Affairs and GovernanceErfurt UniversityErfurtGermany

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