Legal Nihilism

Nihilism, Legal


a trend in sociopolitical thought that denies the social value of law and considers it to be the least perfect means of regulating social relations.

The first to advance nihilistic ideas with respect to law were the Confucians in China. In contrast to the sociopolitical ideas of such Greek philosophers as Aristotle and Plato, who emphasized the important role of law, the Confucians maintained that society should be administered not with the aid of laws but on the basis of a system of traditional moral principles.

In modern times, juridical nihilistic ideas have been a feature of various theories attempting to justify absolute monarchy as a form of government; in response, thinkers of the 18th-century revolutionary bourgeois Enlightenment insisted that “the rule of men be replaced by the rule of law.”

Legal nihilism in its most extreme form is a feature of anarchism. M. Stirner, P. Proudhon, M. Bakunin, and other anarchists considered the immediate abolition of law and the state a necessary condition for the “liberation of the individual.” Bakunin and his followers extended their negative appraisal of bourgeois law to law in general; in so doing, they lost historical perspective and underestimated the role of law (and the state) in the construction of a socialist society.

In the 20th century legal nihilism has been an integral part of various ultraleftist and ultrarevolutionary programs, notably those of the left-wing (gauchiste) movements that emerged in the late 1960’s in all the major capitalist countries. The legal nihilism of these movements leads to the rejection of the legal means available to the toiling masses in the struggle against the political power of the monopolies; this idea has found expression in the works of Marcuse and others.

Contemporary bourgeois “sovietology,” manipulatively distorting Marxist tenets regarding the withering of law in the future communist society, has often declared legal nihilism to be a feature of Marxism. In reality, the classics of Marxism-Leninism rejected the legalistic world view as the quintessential world view of the bourgeoisie and of legalistic socialism. They have always stressed the important role of law in a class society and its state, calling upon the working class of the capitalist countries to use the law to strengthen its economic and political positions.

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They can be grouped into three main groups: legal nihilism, distrust of power, negative social adaptation.
With their letter, which the Russian prosecutor general described as "astonishing in its blatant legal nihilism," the MEPs "are interfering shamelessly in the competence of others, imposing arrogantly and disrespectfully their illegal and unfounded position on a sovereign state," according to RT.
Today, in conjunction with severe socio-economic status, it creates a tense social situation, which leads to the development of such social vices as legal nihilism characterized by negative attitudes toward law.
As Medvedev observed, legal nihilism pervades Russian life.
Dmitri Medvedev: Pravovoi nigilizm poiavilsia ne vchera [Dmitri Medvedev: Legal Nihilism Did Not Occur Yesterday], VSLUH.
Byline: Once the richest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky seems destined to become a symbol of its legal nihilism.
Robert Amsterdam, a defence lawyer for Khodorkovsky, said "The fact that the Russian president has denounced legal nihilism puts this process in a different context to the last process, where the Russian president was saying things quite different to that.
Russia is the country of legal nihilism," he declared in January.
Periods of legal nihilism alternated with periods of legal revival, but by mid-1930s, the political leadership recognized law as an important instrument of authority (Huskey, 1992).
Lenin's attitude as the Bolshevik leader towards law before 1917 was a highly eclectic combination of the elements of Marxist theory of law and legal nihilism, often verging on anarchist views.
Gore will provoke another great renaissance of legal nihilism in our nation's law schools, a cynicism that will slowly erode general confidence in the system.
Russia wants to export its legal nihilism to the West, and seems to have found a weak link in Cyprus," he said.