CHAPTER 4
REISNER'S THEORY OF LAW

A normative interpretation of Marxian socialism

THE ambiguity of Marx' social theory in general and his theory of law in particular shows itself quite openly in the fact that on its basis M. A. Reisner1 developed a doctrine very different from and even opposed to that of Stuchka, his contemporary. Reisner was very much impressed by Petrazhitskii's psychological approach to the problem of law and he tried to combine with it the principles of an economic interpretation of society. In opposition to the traditional jurisprudence of his time, Petrazhitskii understood by law certain normative ideas existing as psychological reality in the mind of men, not identical with the law of the state and sometimes even directed against it. These normative ideas -- the so-called 'intuitive law' -- are different according to the group within which they develop, so that there exists an 'intuitive law'

'of the separate family, of a little group, of a particular circle, of society, of a class, and the like. And to the extent that it embraces ever broader and broader circles intuitive law becomes pro tanto both powerful and dominant in a given milieu'.2 'It needs no force in order that it may exist...the norms of intuitive law...are an exalted standard and criterion for the appraisal of positive norms [which means the law of the state] and for disapproving them if their content is incongruous.'3

The intuitive laws of Petrazhitskii are evidently ideas of justice arising within definite groups; his theory is a kind of pluralistic natural-law doctrine. The Marxist Reisner was probably attracted by this doctrine because he, from the very beginning, accepted a normative interpretation of Marxian socialism. He, as many other Marxists, spoke immediately after the October

____________________
1
M. A. Reisner, The Theory of Petrazhitskii: Marxism and Social Ideology ( 1908), Soviet Legal Philosophy, p. 71et seq.; and Law, Our Law, Foreign Law, General Law ( 1925), loc. cit., p. 83et seq.
2
Soviet Legal Philosophy, pp. 82, 84.
3
Loc. cit., p. 85.

-77-

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