Northern Lights: From Swedish Realism to Sociology of Law

Publication Date01 Nov 2013
AuthorRoger Cotterrell
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 657±69
Northern Lights: From Swedish Realism to Sociology of Law
Roger Cotterrell*
This article is a contribution to the occasional series dealing with
major books that have influenced the authors. Previous contributors
include Stewart Macaulay, John Griffith, William Twining, Carol
Harlow, Geoffrey Bindman, Harry Arthurs, Andre
Â-Jean Arnaud, Alan
Hunt, Michael Adler, Lawrence O. Gostin, John P. Heinz, and Roger
My long and difficult relationship with Karl Olivecrona began one day in the
winter of 1967±68 in the law library at University College London. It was
always a very one-sided relationship; he didn't know me and we never met. I
did see him at a distance ten years later at UCL, with his white hair flowing
and his gaunt, severe face, as he gave a set-piece lecture on Bentham from a
high lectern.
And perhaps he saw the review I wrote of his book in 1971,
which was one of my earliest academic publications.
But as an under-
graduate student in 1967±68, I encountered him only through his printed
words. Nevertheless, they impacted on me as much as a face-to-face meeting
might have done.
His work is not much read now outside Scandinavia, but he is still often
thought of in the anglophone world as the most accessible of the Swedish
legal realist jurists and his name appears in major jurisprudence textbooks.
*Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS, England
I am grateful to Reza Banakar, Mauro Zamboni, and Michael Freeman for help in diverse
ways with this project.
1 The lecture, delivered on 15 April 1977, was published as `Bentham's ``Veil of
Mystery''' (1978) 31 Current Legal Problems 227±37.
2 R. Cotterrell, `Review of K. Olivecrona, Law as Fact (1971, 2nd edn.)' (1971) 34
Modern Law Rev. 589±90. Although this book has the same title as the 1939 work
that is the focus of this article, the text is entirely different. Olivecrona explained (p.
vii) that his views had `not changed in any important respect. But more needed to be
said and the exposition had to be differently arranged'.
ß2013 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2013 Cardiff University Law School

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