es explaining law is
hardy the same what the Hedenius’ distinction targets, as
Hägerström did not much analyse his so-called “proper norms”,
at least not in his publications on legal theory.
I do not wish to argue that Hägerström was basically correct
in his painstaking criticism of various legal theories, especially
from German scholars. Even less would I wish to commit my-
self to defending the virulent critique of many legal scholars by
Lundstedt (1932, 1936), ending up in his pronunciation of the
Unwissenschaftlichkeit” of jurisprudence. Yet, neither Häger-
ström nor Lundstedt can be rebutted simply by means of the
confusion of the two legs in the He d enius’ distinc t ion.
Interestingly, Kelsen, who definitely did not endorse any
form of legal realism, rejected the relevance of Hedenius’ dis-
tinction. It is worth quoting him at some length:
A) Wedberg insiste… sur ce qu’il appelle le “fondament
factuel de la science du droit…, entendant pas “fondament fac-
tuel”: “Certain oral or written utterances to which a specific
legal authority is accorded. Such utterances are codifed in law
or statutes, court decisions, formal contractscustoms or
practice, which likewise are recognized as possessing a specific
legal authority” (p. 247).
Kelsen refers to an article by Wedberg from 1951 that paral-
lells Hedenius’distinction above. Kelsen (1979) comments
upon the distinction between 1) proper norm sentence and 2)
propositions about the norm sentence:
Wedberg qualifie ces actes, par lesquels sont posées des
normes juridiques générales ou individuelles, de “fondament
factuel” (factual basis) de la science du droit. Au sujet des
propositions de la science du droit énoncant que certain normes
sont valides (these rules are in force), il écrit qu’elles sont “une
réference au fondament factuel de la science du droit” (p. 260).
And he rejects the Hedenius’distinction with the following
argument: “Mais l’énocé selon lequel une norme est valide ne
se réfère pas à l’acte qui la pose. Celui-ci est une condition de
la validité, mais il n’est pas la validité. (Kelsen, 1979: pp. 463-
Hedenius argued that jurisprudence is an empirical science
investigating whether a norm of behaviour is in force which
The validity of one single rule of law is the same as the exis-
tence of a matter of fact regularity in a certain human behaviour.
Thus, it is always a question of activity conducted by the
so-called authorities. (Hedenius, 1965: pp. 78-79).
Jurisprudence is not a social science, as it does not make
surveys of people’s behaviour, establishing statistical means
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
and standard deviations. It establishes what is considered valid
law on the basis of legislation and court decisions. The Heden-
ius' distinction is itself questionable as explication of what ju-
risprudence is all about.
Hägerström and European Philosophy and
Social Thought
By distinguishing clearly between Hägerström’s theoretical
and practical philosophy, one arrives at a better appreciation of
his originality as philosopher. Lecturing and publishing in prac-
tical philosophy, Hägerström’s work can be designated as “on-
tology of the present”, in accordance with Foucault.
The present in Hägerström’s cultural ontology was nothing
less than the bourgeois society at its Weberian peak: Protestan-
tic capitalism around 1900. The key message is that its struc-
tures of domination-economic and political-cannot be given
legitimation by means of objective values-a direct implication
of his base model HM.
Swedish society around 1900 was in rapid social change
from an agrarian hierarchical structure, dominated by wealthy
peasants together with the Church, the nobility and the King, to
an urban industrial structure with a growing working class,
inspired by German Marxism and demanding social reforms as
well as parliamentary democracy. The new industrialist class of
entrepreneurs and bankers, like the Wallenberg family, the
Kempes and the Nobel brothers created huge fortunes as the
Swedish economy became part of global capitalism in certain
industries. In reality, Hägerström’s Sweden adhered to the logic
of development in both Unterbau and Überbau portrayed in
Weber’s model of capitalist ethics from 1904 (Weber, 2010).
Capitalist domination rests upon a moral and legal order that
legitimates the virtues of the “Geist des Kapitalismus”. The
values of the capitalist economy—property, thrift, risk, wealth
accumulation, investment, rational calculation, duty—are re-
garded as objective, to be respected ultimately by natural reason
and obligation in conscience, if not by religion. Hägerström
crushed entirely this Weberian legitimation basis for the virtues
of modern capitalism in religion, morals and law.
At the time when Hägerström started his radical cultural cri-
tique Sweden did not harbour a democratic regime, its Riksdag
being dominated by the nobility and the wealthy peasants-what
writer August Strindberg called “Det Nya Riket” (The New
Regime). There was little of labour legislation and virtually no
regulation of industrial life and employment conditions. Educa-
tion was in the hand of the Church, teaching duty endlessly in
order to inculcate the Protestantic virtues into conscience. Fam-
ily matters were handled on the basis of Lutheran precepts.
Established morals were guaranteed by the King and the
Church, supported by the large class of independent peasants,
dominating Swedish politics together with noblemen and
wealthy capitalists until the arrival of the Arbeiterbewegung.
Hägerström’s attack on the established order started a cultural
evolution ending with the world famous movies of Ingemar
Bergman, crushing the notion of obligation in a bourgeois soci-
ety as the inner voice of conscience-the voice of God in man
and woman. Hägerström’s modernism opened up for the com-
ing of a most post-modernist society in Sweden after the Sec-
ond World War where the ethics of the bourgeosie no longer
rules people.
The attack on the bourgeois legitimation of state and society
spread out in numerous publications of Hägerström was, when
taken together, as virulent as the Foucault critique of bourgeois
values after the Second Great War (Foucault, 1977). Häger-
ström targeted the essential elements in the established norma-
tivity and rebutted its core beliefs:
1) “Religion is supersti t io n”
2) “Morals is nothing but valuations”
3) “The duty in conscience is merely a feeling of obligation”
4) “Crime only exists in court decisions”
5) “Property rights do not exist”
6) “Religion and official duties always serve as myths for the
legitimation of domination—political or economic.”
Concerning Hägerström’s social and political philosophy, it
may be argued that it was almost exclusively negative—a de-
construction long before Derrida. He seems to have held the
perhaps somewhat naïve belief that moral issues could be re-
solved on the basis of humanitarian valuations, once the mys-
tique of the established order had been unravelled. Once his
research project-HM-had been applied to various domains, it
came to an end, as no new ideas were added.
Foucault made a lasting contribution to European continental
philosophy by making cultural critique a central field in phi-
losophy. Arguing convincingly that the “ontology of the pre-
sent” must be rendered the same status within philosophy as
general ontology and epistemology, he showed that several
philosophers had made lasting contribution to the de-mystifi-
cation of legitimation beliefs and values of the society in which
they were active, like especially Max Weber.
Hägerström’s many publications and constant lecturing at
Uppsala University for more than 30 years should be seen in
the light of the “ontology of the present.” His social and politi-
cal writings all add up to a most forceful, intellectually speak-
ing, rejection of the ethos of the Bourgeosie in capitalist society.
They have a strong post-modernist appeal in deconstructing the
legitimating ideology of the ruling classes.
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