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Methods of Legal Theory

Legal researchers are sometimes tempted to use legal theory as an embellishment of doctrinal (or other) more classical forms of legal scholarship. In engaging with theory as a method, it is, however, important to note that there is no such thing as a single legal theory. Moreover, legal theorizing sometimes incorporates methodological transplants from other disciplines, which raises additional problems intrinsic to interdisciplinary research. If used skilfully, theoretical methods can considerably sharpen the epistemological repertoire of legal scholarship. This, however, does not mean that theoretical inquiries into law are always fruitful. It is, as always, a question of skilful mastery and judgment in each concrete case. Inaugurating our 2024 Legal Research Methods programme, Professor Auer’s presentation will be invaluable for assisting Max Planck Law researchers to develop a more precise understanding of how legal theory can be employed to answer specific research questions, and how its uses and applications drive substantive knowledge outcomes.

Professor Dr Marietta Auer, MA, LLM, SJD (Harvard) is the Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory.

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Methods of Legal Theory

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