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Article

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Abstract

This Essay attempts to show some of the important connections between the Continental tradition of semiotics, American Legal Realism, and the Critical Legal Studies movement. Semiotics, the study of signs and systems of signification, was developed independently by two thinkers, the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce and the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Much of the literature in legal semiotics has followed the Peircian tradition, but ironically, its connections with progressive movements in American legal theory have not always been clear. This Essay offers an alternative way of uniting legal semiotics with legal theory in America. It argues that the line of inquiry begun by Saussure, and continued by the French structuralists and post-structuralists, is not only an especially fertile way of approaching the study of legal semiotics, but that this semiotics can be more readily adapted to understanding politics and ideology as they are expressed in and disguised in legal thought. For this reason, there is a very natural affinity between Saussure's semiology, on the one hand, and the work of the legal realists and the modern Critical Legal Studies movement on the other.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1990

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