Mark Kelman

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Mark Kelman (born August 20, 1951) is jurist and vice dean of Stanford Law School. As a prominent legal scholar, he has applied social science methodologies, including economics and psychology, to the study of law. He is one of the most cited law professors.[1] He is regarded as one of the co-founders of the critical legal studies movement and authored "A Guide to Critical Legal Studies." He is widely known for his influential[2] 1978 critique of the Coase theorem,[3] a core part of law and economics.


Being a published novelist, Kelman is well aware of the role of narrative in forming a sense of personal identity[4] - as also of the way narratives may be incriminating or exculpatory, depending on the time frame used.[5]

Thus, for example, when viewed in a long enough time-frame, a criminal act which appears at first sight the result of individual responsibility may, Kelman suggests, be instead the deterministic result of socio-economic conditions.[6]

Rational rhetoricism[edit]

Kelman argues that much in the law involves providing rational interpretative constructs that surround a non-rational core – what he terms 'rational rhetoricism'[7] with the result that, in his words, "It is illuminating and disquieting to see that we are nonrationally constructing the legal world over and over again....".[8]

Stanley Fish has proposed in rebuttal that such rhetorical constructs are in fact a necessary aspect of the human condition, and thus an inevitable facet of the legal world as well.[9]

See also[edit]


  • Mark Kelman, What Followed Was Pure Lesley (1973)
  • Mark Kelman, 'Choice & Utility' Wisconsin Law Review 1979 (1979)
  • Mark Kelman, 'Interpretive Construction in the Substantive Criminal Law' Stanford Law Review (1981)


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Robin West, Narrative, Authority, and Law (1993) p. 254
  5. ^ G. Binder/R. Weisberg, Literary Criticism of Law (2000) p. 264
  6. ^ Stanley Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally (1989) p. 393-7
  7. ^ Fish, p. 393
  8. ^ Quoted in Fish, p. 395
  9. ^ Fish, p. 395-6

External links[edit]