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This book uses Niklas Luhmann's systems theory to explore how the legal system operates as one of modern society's subsystems. The authors demonstrate how this theory alters our understanding of some of the most important and controversial issues within law: the nature of judicial communication and legal argument; the claim that it can be right to disobey law; the character of legal pluralism and globalisation; time and its construction within law; the significance of the rule of law and human rights and the role of appeals to, and within, law. Systems theory enables the authors to demonstrate how the legal system observes its own operations through its own communications, and how this contrasts with the manner in which law is observed by other systems such as the media and politics. In this context the authors explore the constraints imposed by systems, in particular the legal system, upon the individuals who participate in them.
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Table of Contents

1 Is the Legal System a System? 2 Why Do Judges Talk the Way they Do? Social Systems, Psychic Systems and Redundancy Judicial Communications and 'Commitment' to the Legal System Judicial Discretion Conclusion 3 Can One Have a Right to Disobey a Law? Civil Disobedience within the Legal System Civil Disobedience within the Political System Social Movements and Civil Disobedience Civil Disobedience within the Legal and Political Systems - A Case Study (Debbie Purdy's Case) Conclusion 4 Understanding Legal Pluralism Brian Tamanaha's Criticisms of Systems Theory How Does One Identify a Subsystem Code? Law and Violence Normative Pluralism Pluralism and Translation Exploring Legal Pluralism in Modern and Pre-modern Societies Conclusion 5 How Law Constructs Time Time, Law and Politics A Simple Example: The Presumption of Innocence A Complex Example 6 Politics and Law: The Rule of Law, Constitutional Law, and Human Rights The Rule of Law Constitutional Law Constitutional and Human Rights, and Societal Constitutionalism 7 Control through Law Steering through Constituting Rules Observing Reflexive Law Structural Coupling Dynamics 8 Appeals in Law Appeals and Doctrine The Structural Coupling between Law and the Media through Conviction Implications of Criminal Appeals for the Structural Coupling between Law and the Media The Pressures Generated by the Differences between the Media and the Legal System's Understanding of Appeal Postscript: A Comment on Human Involvement

About the Author

Richard Nobles is a Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London. David Schiff is a Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London.


... an eminently readable and accessible analysis of the implications for law of adopting a systems theory perspective. It can be readily recommended both to the reader who is coming to systems theory for the first time and to the reader who is familiar with the underlying theoretical works. Both will find much here to inspire them in their study of law and its interactions with society - not least the opportunities opened up by understanding law and other social subsystems as specifically communicative systems. -- John Paterson * Edinburgh Law Review *

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