Book Reviews

Understanding Jurisprudence: An introduction to legal theory

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Author: Raymond Wacks

Price: 31.99

Edition: 5th Edition (October 2017)

ISBN: 978-0-19880-601-1

Buy from OUP: Click Here

Jurisprudence is always a challenging subject for students.  Raymond Wacks, in his own inimitable style, sums up the issue when he says (on page two): "[j]urisprudence is, for some students, pain.  Perhaps you are one of them.  Given the choice, they would not choose to take the subject at all.  And it is little consolation for them to be told that one day they will look back and recognize the value of their exposure to legal theory".  Understanding Jurisprudence aims to provide "enough detail to be a reliable, helpful, and congenial guide to the major themes of this field of study".  And it does that and more; providing an important flashlight into what can be an otherwise turgid topic.

Written by an experienced academic and author, Raymond Wacks, Understanding Jurisprudence is split into fifteen chapters: what's it all about?; natural law and morality; classical legal positivism; modern legal positivism; law and moral legitimacy; legal realism; law and social theory; historical and anthropological jurisprudence; theories of justice; rights; why obey the law?; why punish?; critical legal theory; feminist theory; and jurisprudence understood.  These chapters, and their focus, certainly help the reader to properly understand jurisprudence and its context (including the wide issues it raises).

The first thing which strikes you about Understanding Jurisprudence is its style; it is unlike no other textbook on jurisprudence.  Wacks' writing style is both engaging and enjoyable.  He brings the issues and topics to life by writing directly to the reader; almost like reading a transcript of a lecture of seminar group.   Wacks also clear flags of topics, and extracts are highlighted with a shaded background.  These all help its accessibility.  This new edition includes expanded chapters on rights, obedience to the law, theories of justice, and feminist theories.  It also includes revised discussions on a number of other topics.

If you are studying jurisprudence, or have a wider interest in why we have the laws we do, Understanding Jurisprudence provides an accessible and engaging explanation of the key principles.  Wacks poses a number of questions at the end of each chapter together with a very thorough further reading list (and the introductory chapter provides an excellent summary of the main texts on jurisprudence).  The text also includes access to a very thorough online resource centre (see: meaning this text gives the reader excellent value for money.

Reviewed on 7 October 2018

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