Lev Petrazhitskii

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petrazhitskii, Lev Iosifovich


(also Leon Petrażycki). Born Apr. 13, 1867, in Kollontaevo, Vitebsk Province; died May 15, 1931, in Warsaw. Theoretician of law. Polish by nationality.

Petrazhitskii graduated from the law faculty of the University of Kiev and later studied in Berlin. From 1898 to 1918 he held the chair of the general theory of law and the philosophy of law at the University of St. Petersburg. He became a member of the Polish Academy in 1912. He was a deputy to the First State Duma and a member of the Cadet party. In 1918 he emigrated from Russia and became head of the subdepartment of the sociology of law in the law faculty of the University of Warsaw.

Petrazhitskii devoted his first major works to the problems of civil law. While teaching in Poland, he was chiefly concerned with sociology. He proceeded from the idealist principle that human psychology is the basis of law and the moving force in its development. He distinguished between “official,” or positive, law—the existing system of accepted norms—and “true” law— a characteristic and product of the psychology of the human individual. Petrazhitskii also considered other norms of social behavior, such as morals, to be based on psychology. He believed that the chief objective of legal science was to develop as a legal policy a set of measures specifically designed to strengthen the “lawful” aspect of the human psyche; this in turn would strengthen the “legal” aspect of human behavior. On the social level, Petrazhitskii’s ideas stressed, from a moderate bourgeois liberal standpoint, the obsoleteness of the imperfect official law of tsarist Russia and the law’s inappropriateness to developing capitalist relations. There was no class interpretation of law in Petrazhitskii’s teachings. He significantly influenced the subsequent development of bourgeois legal thought.


Ocherki filosofii prava, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1900.
O motivakh chelovecheskikh postupkov. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Vvedenie v izuchenie prava i nravstvennosti: Emotsional’naia psikhologiia, 3rd ed. St. Petersburg, 1908.


Rezunov, M. D. Marksizm i psikhologicheskaia shkola prava. Moscow, 1931.
Sajdler, G. L. Iuridicheskie doktriny imperializma. Moscow, 1959. Pages 47-74. (Translated from Polish.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.