I T is a paradoxical fact that so-called historic materialism, that is, the economic interpretation of social reality, inaugurated by Karl Marx, has influenced and is still influencing the social science of our time, including the anti-Marxian school, to a much greater extent than its representatives are aware. This fact manifests itself in the widespread tendency to reject any normative interpretation of social phenomena, even if they undoubtedly fall within the realm of morality or law. There exists among social scientists a certain proclivity to reduce human relations, which in ethics and jurisprudence are presented as duties, responsibilities, rights established by moral or legal norms, to factual relations of political or economic power; and to characterise value judgments concerning right and wrong, just and unjust, as propositions about facts observable by individual or social psychology, in opposition to their interpretation as judgments concerning conformity or disconformity with a norm presupposed as valid. It is an anti-normative tendency, based on the unwillingness or incapacity of recognising the specific meaning of a norm or a normative order. It justifies itself by denouncing any normative interpretation as 'unscientific'. This intellectual attitude is of particular importance in the modern science of law, which tries to replace jurisprudence by legal sociology.
The anti-normative approach to social phenomena is an essential element of the Marxian theory in general and of the Marxian theory of law in particular. The question as to whether the law is a system of norms or an aggregate of social relationships plays a decisive role in the legal theory which in the Soviet Union has been developed on the basis of orthodox Marxism. This legal theory is a characteristic part of the political system known under the name of communism.
A critical analysis of the communist theory of law seems to the author of this essay to be of value not only to scientific jurisprudence but -- for the above-mentioned reasons -- to social science in general.
The Soviet legal theory, to which the second part of this essay is devoted, is dominated almost exclusively by political factors.