What Is Legal Positivism?


Quick Answer

Legal positivism is the philosophical concept that law is essentially a social construction, explains Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Legal positivism says the existence of a legal system is separate from its presumed benefits or merits.

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Legal positivism begins with the idea that a single person or group of people with absolute power is the source of a society's legal system, according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. This person or group creates laws that may or may not be just, and these laws govern a society's behavior because they are backed up by the implied threat of force. The theory says that all laws have a single form that obligate citizens to behave in certain ways, but it doesn't say that people should automatically obey all laws.

Legal positivism is a utilitarian viewpoint that focuses more on the practice of law, rather than its morality, notes Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Legal positivists tend to emphasize the mechanics of a legal system more than its moral integrity. They recognize that the law is fallible, and they believe that a law's inherent morality isn't connected to its implementation. Legal positivists believe that legal philosophy should attempt to be neutral and should avoid assigning values to a discussion of the law.

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