» Archive for: March, 2016

Taekema2Sanne Taekema, Erasmus School of Law

Legal instrumentalism has a bad name: it is criticized for reducing law to a policy instrument for external political or economic goals. During the ISS Dialogue on Civic Innovation Research on April 4, I aim to rehabilitate instrumentalism, at least to some extent, by reinterpreting it from the perspective of pragmatist interactionism. By seeing law as emerging from the interactional expectancies of people towards one another, law is conceptually based on horizontal relationships (building on the theory of Lon Fuller). I will argue that this horizontal orientation can provide a specific version of an instrumental view of law because it pluralizes law’s instrumentality. Law is no longer seen as a policy instrument in the hands of authorities, but as a tool for everyone who makes use of it (making use of John Dewey’s pragmatism). Such a bottom-up account of law as an instrument requires arguing how the purposive activities of people in legal practices shape law as an interactional phenomenon. It also requires an argument on how the horizontal and vertical dimensions of law are connected. This means exploring to what extent law as set by official authority figures in, limits or enables, the different uses ordinary people make of law. Legal mobilization by activist individuals and groups is used to see how the vertical relationship involves bottom-up instrumentalization of law and how this relates to law’s values.


  1. To give a good account of legal mobilisation, we need to rethink the idea of law merely serving as a policy instrument.
  1. Law does not only consist of rules and is not framed by legal professionals exclusively; we also need to acknowledge and better understand the creative role of citizens and social movements.
  1. Legal mobilization needs to engage with law’s internal values, not work against them.


International Institute of Social Studies

CIRI aims to scale up and identify synergies between existing research at ISS on civic agency and change agents, as drivers of societal change and development. This blog is a forum on which to share and discuss themes and issues which fall within the broad framework of the programme.

  • Paula Sánchez: I will be very happy to bring to the discussion also the current movement nuit debout that is spread [...]
  • Sanne Taekema: It is also helpful to consider some historical examples of mobilizing law for social purposes. It i [...]
  • 4 April 2016: prof. Taekema speaks at ISS – INFAR: […] Read the whole abstract of prof. Taekema on the blog of ISS, by clicking here. […] [...]
  • Jeff: Here is a more concrete example: If you are discussing THE ROLE OF LAW IN PROTECTING THE ENVIRONM [...]
  • Jeff: Legal mobilization is a crucial topic to discuss, particularly among those in the legal field who te [...]