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Translation, by Max Knight, of the second revised and enlarged German edition, being a completely revised version of the first edition which was published in 1934.
A landmark in the development of modern jurisprudence, the pure theory of law defines law as a system of coercive norms created by the state that rests on the validity of a generally accepted Grundnorm, or basic norm, such as the supremacy of the Constitution. Entirely self-supporting, it rejects any concept derived from metaphysics, politics, ethics, sociology, or the natural sciences.
Beginning with the medieval reception of Roman law, traditional jurisprudence has maintained a dual system of "subjective" law (the rights of a person) and "objective" law (the system of norms). Throughout history this dualism has been a useful tool for putting the law in the service of politics, especially by rulers or dominant political parties.
The pure theory of law destroys this dualism by replacing it with a unitary system of objective positive law that is insulated from political manipulation. Possibly the most influential jurisprudent of the twentieth century, Hans Kelsen [1881-1973] was legal adviser to Austria's last emperor and its first republican government, the founder and permanent advisor of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Austria, and the author of Austria's Constitution, which was enacted in 1920, abolished during the Anschluss, and restored in 1945.
The author of more than forty books on law and legal philosophy, he is best known for this work and General Theory of Law and State. Also active as a teacher in Europe and the United States, he was Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna and taught at the universities of Cologne and Prague, the Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Harvard, Wellesley, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Naval War College.