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Jurisprudence is the science or philosophy of law. The same word is also used to refer to the decided cases of a particular court or in a particular area of law.

Jurisprudence is the study of law and the structure of the legal system.


An interesting development in jurisprudential thought occurred through the debates between Hans Kelsen, in his 'Pure Theory of Law' and Carl Schmitt in his 'On Dictatorship.' The two are considered by some to be influential legal thinkers of the past century.

Kelsen attempted to sterilize legal systems throughout a variety of cultures and generations to provide for a scientific study of law. His efforts were designed to understand the basic component elements of law, regardless of its substance. Kelsen's conclusions can be used to determine what makes a law valid, what laws will be followed and which will be disregarded by either the subjugated or the subjugator.

Schmitt's efforts were focused on an entirely different framework, as he wrote to defend an authoritarian system of governance. Schmitt believed that to be effective, a society must be entirely homogenous (a term he refused to define throughout his publications) and must unanimously and publicly place a charismatic dictator in power. Schmitt believed that the true failure of a democracy was in its structural apathy (i.e., the American system of checks and balances, and the difficulty in polling the public in relatively mundane issues, such as a town's citizen referendums).

Schmitt favored producing a theory that required a society to be formed entirely from the ground-up. This fundamental difference proved incredibly troubling for the debate between the two authors, as neither side attempted to enter the framework of the other to produce a true sense of clash. Instead, the debate was left ultimately unresolved as both authors preferred to have their work remain unscathed, yet produce an argumentative sense of two ships passing in the night, oblivious to the existence of the other.

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