Forskargruppe for rettskultur

Champagne at the Funeral

An Introduction to Legal Culture

By Professor Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde

A brief preliminary discourse

In short, legal culture is ideas and expectations of law made operational by institutional (-like) practices. The concept of legal culture is, firstly, difficult to define, since ideas and expectations of law, and how they are made operational, are hard to identify precisely. Secondly, it is a concept that is hard to manage without, since, in the end, law in action is a question of how ideas and expectations of law are made operational by institutional (-like) practices. Thirdly, it is especially hard to manage without at a time when the law frequently crosses jurisdictional borders, which means that ideas and expectations of law, and the institutions that make them operational by means of their practices, are challenged and changed by encountering a multitude of other ideas, expectations and practices relating to the law.

This article aims to contextualise, arrange and analyse the legal culture phenomenon to ensure the concept is a subject for discussion. This will be achieved firstly by explaining why legal culture is a concept we would find hard to manage without, secondly, by contextualising and defining the concept of legal culture, and thirdly, by explaining how the concept is structured internally, and the historically relativistic character of this structure. The end result will be a preliminary insight into the phenomenon of legal culture.

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Champagne at the Funeral