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Making the Case for Socio-legal Research in Land Law: Renner and the Law of Mortgage

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The aim of this article is to enhance knowledge of and to encourage further research into two areas not traditionally the subject of socio-legal research, namely, the work of Karl Renner and the English law of mortgage, for three reasons. First, an account of them supports the proposition that a true understanding of law requires knowledge of its origins, content, and function. Second, Renner's theory can contribute significantly to our understanding of law by offering an alternative to the polarized debate between legal autopoiesis and other sociological conceptions of law. Third, it has much to tell us about the relationship between legal and social change. In particular, Renner's work suggests that those seeking legal reform should look not to the legislature, but to those capable of influencing its ‘social function’. Those frustrated by the lack of doctrinal reform within the law of mortgage can take heart, therefore, from the continual process of change evident in its social function. Ultimately, however, further socio-legal research is required, for a more developed understanding of the law of mortgage.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Law School, The University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, England, Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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