Protestantism and the rationalization of English law: A variation on a theme by Weber

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Abstract

Attending to an underdeveloped lacuna in Weber's sociology of law, this essay examines the relationship between Protestant theology and the emergence of modern, rational legal systems. The essay argues that radical Protestantism inspired demands for the rationalization of English law, and while not successful in bringing about the concrete changes advocated, that central features of Weber's notion of rational legal thought were also central in the theology of the radical Protestants. Examining the legal thought of two groups that appeared during the English Revolution - the Levellers and the Diggers - the essay shows how theology provided these groups with a model for a more predictable law, offered them a source for the norms of their proposed legal system, and motivated the desire for law reform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-391
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Society Review
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1999

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