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         Those Who Made the RCSL

         Per Stjernquist



Per Stjernquist passed away on 27 December 2005, fondly remembered as one of the true pioneers of the sociology of law. Per belonged to the first generation of socio-legal scholars who emerged after WW II and soon became an admired mentor for the second generation of sociologists of law, mainly in the Nordic countries but also internationally. Deeply rooted in the Swedish social democratic culture, he remained mainly concerned with promoting the sociology of law in the Nordic countries rather than establishing an international reputation. Nevertheless many international scholars were attracted by the practical sociology of law of Per Stjernquist and his quiet way of insisting that the sociology of law was, above all, cared for people and their interests. As one of those who was guided by Per’s friendly advice and firm criticism over the past thirty two years, I would like to draw the attention of the wider international community to the pioneering work of Per Stjernquist by referring to the obituary which was published by the colleagues in the Department of Sociology of Law in Lund, Sweden, Prof. Håkan Hydén, the successor of Per Stjernquist in the Chair of Sociology of Law, and Marianne Steneroth Sillén, Associate Dean in Commercial Law in Lund:

“Neither law nor morals are terms which are given to us by birth or nature. These terms are always connected to those who are in power or to the interests of the various groups in society. If one wants to decide what is right and what is unjust one can only go by one’s own reasoning.”

This statement was made by per Stjernquist in an interview on law and morals. He became a famous celebrity in Lund as a law professor with a fighting spirit for whom the faculty of law had become too stifling. He left law and introduced sociology of law as a subject in the faculty of social sciences in 1963. This was a great relief for many students who studied law in the shadow of 1968 when the political bias of law and dependency on external conditions became only too obvious. Per Stjernquist’s engaging lectures and publications attained an enormous significance for all of us because they gave life and meaning to studying law.

During all his life he had a strong and manifest interest for forests and nature, and this formed his life to a high degree. He formulated this interest already in 1961 with his classical textbook on private law Den rättsliga kontrollen över mark och vatten (The Legal Control over land and water), but also later in his leading socio-legal opus magnum Laws in the forests - study of public direction of Swedish private forestry which was first published in 1973, one year after Per Stjernquist was appointed as the first Professor of Sociology of Law at the University of Lund.

Per Stjernquist’s publications are spread over the most diverse range, beginning with Rättens ursprung och grund (The Origin and Foundation of Law, 1961), Rätten i samhällsbyggandet (Law in Forming Society,1980), the anthropologically oriented Folket i trähusen (People in the Wooden Houses, 1986) to Skogen och brukarna : skogens behandling i enskilt skogsbruk (The Forests and Owners of Forests: the Treatment of Forests in Private Forestry, 1997). Per Stjernquist continued with his academic activities also long after retirement from university service. As late as 2000 he published Organized Cooperation Facing Law – an anthropological study, and in 2001 together with Per Jarlbro Kulturmiljövård och samhällsplanering – en fallstudie av Ängö vid Kalmar (Protection of the Cultural Environment and Social Planning – a Case-study of (the island) Ängö bei Kalmar. Until his death he was an active supervisor of research on the regulation of forrestry.

With Per Stjernquist’s passing away, a whole era has come to its end. He was, together with Vilhelm Aubert and Torstein Eckhoff in Norway, the pioneer for that important part of law which is covered by sociology of law. It is our obligation to carry on with this legacy.

Håkan Hydén, Marianne Steneroth Sillén, Alex Ziegert (translator)

(Source: RCSL Newsletter Spring 2006)




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