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Law and peace in the work of Hans Kelsen

Law and peace in the work of Hans Kelsen. A re-evaluation of Kelsen’s legal philosophy: legal pacifism as tacit meaning of his Pure Theory of Law

Mathijs Notermans
24 March 2016
Full text in Leiden University Repository



Hans Kelsen is renowned in the world of legal philosophy as one of the most important legal scholars of the 20th century and his most important work which brought him this renown, Pure Theory of Law, is therefore ‘world famous’. However, he is less well known as a legal pacifist and his main writings on law and peace, such as Peace through Law, are very rarely studied and almost never considered in relation to his Pure Theory of Law. Even the more recent studies of Kelsen’s theory of democracy, which increased familiarity with Kelsen as an advocate of democracy and actually looked at his political work in the light of the Pure Theory of Law, contain almost no systematic or critical consideration of the value of peace, although both Kelsen’s legal theory and his theory of democracy at least give cause for this. Whereas other studies have already made the connection between the concepts of law and democracy in Kelsen’s work, this thesis concentrates on the concepts – also closely connected in his work – of law and peace. With this new approach this thesis hopes to contribute to a re-evaluation of Kelsen’s positivist legal philosophy by showing that the undervalued yet essential aspect of his legal pacifism can be understood as the tacit, ethical meaning of the Pure Theory of Law.


Supervisors: prof. dr. E.H.L. Brugmans and prof. dr. G.C.G.J. van Roermund

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