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New Left Review I/193, May-June 1992

Christine Sypnowich

The Future of Socialist Legality: A Reply to Hunt

My book The Concept of Socialist Law challenges the view that an ideal socialist society would have no need of law. [1] I am very grateful to David Bakhurst for invaluable comments on an earlier version of this reply. While thinkers on the Left advocate socialism in the name of justice, they have traditionally dismissed those legal institutions which have provided some measure of justice in liberal capitalist societies. This dismissal has its origins in the classical Marxist thesis that law is a capitalist apparatus necessary only to mediate conflicts between egoistic market actors or antagonistic social classes. I argue that the contempt for law in socialist theory has made for a contemptible form of socialist legality in practice, and that any worthwhile socialism will need legal institutions to adjudicate disputes between socialist citizens and between citizen and community. The book aims to establish a socialist jurisprudence which addresses such questions as the identity of law, the relation between freedom and impartiality, the nature and origin of human rights, and the impact of civil liberties on community. These questions are the focus of lively debates in liberal legal philosophy, debates which, I argue, can make a significant contribution to a concept of socialist law.

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Christine Sypnowich, ‘The Future of Socialist Legality: A Reply to Hunt’, NLR I/193: £3

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