The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’ in the Anglo-American Legal Academy

Lavis, Simon (2018). The Distorted Jurisprudential Discourse of Nazi Law: Uncovering the ‘Rupture Thesis’ in the Anglo-American Legal Academy. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 31(4) pp. 745–770.



It has been remarked that the ‘rupture thesis’ prevails within the Anglo-American legal academy in its understanding of the legal system in Nazi Germany. This article explores the existence and origins of this idea—that ‘Nazi law’ represented an aberration from normal legal-historical development with a point of rupture persisting between it and the ‘normal’ or central concept of law—within jurisprudential discourse in order to illustrate the prevalence of a distorted (mis)representation of Nazi law and how this distortion is manifested within the discourse today. An analysis of the treatment of Nazi law in two major 50th anniversary publications about the 1958 Hart–Fuller debate, and a review of representations of the Third Reich within literature from the current discourse, demonstrates that the rupture thesis continues to be reproduced within jurisprudence. An examination of the role of Nazi law in the Hart–Fuller debate itself shows that it can be traced back to the debate, where it was constructed through a combination of conceptual determinism and historical omission. It concludes that the historical Nazi law has great significance for the concept of law, but neither positivism nor natural law has properly theorised the nature of the real Nazi legal system.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 52984
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1572-8722
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    PhD studentshipAH/I013404/1AHRC
  • Keywords
  • Third Reich; Jurisprudential discourse; Nazi law; Natural law; Positivism; Hart–Fuller debate
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) > Law
    Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2018 The Author
  • Depositing User
  • Simon Lavis