Law as a means

This article defends legal instrumentalism, i.e. the thesis that law is distinguished among social institutions more by the means by which it serves its ends, than by the ends it serves. In Kelsen's terms, '[L]aw is a means, a specific social means, not an end.' The defence is indirect. First, it is argued that the instrumentalist thesis is an interpretation of a broader view about law that is common ground among theorists as different as Aquinas and Bentham. Second, the following familiar fallacies that seem to stand in the way of accepting the thesis are refuted: (1) If law is an instrument, then law can have no non-instrumental value. (2) If law is an instrument, then law always has instrumental value. (3) For law to be an instrument, there must be generic end that law serves. (4) If law is an instrument, law must be a neutral instrument. These claims are all wrong. In passing, the instrumentalist thesis is distinguished from other, unrelated, views sometimes associated with instrumentalism, including Brian Tamanaha's diagnosis of the vices of American law, and the views of those who think that jurisprudence is an instrument in the service of social ends.
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