The legal doctrine: definition, features and structure

Igor Viktorovych Semenihin


    The conception of a «legal doctrine» is commonly used in domestic jurisprudence. At the same time, in legal science, particularly, in the theory of law, there are significant differences on awareness of the legal nature of a legal doctrine, determination of its concept and characteristics, the disclosure of its relationship and interaction with legal science, which predetermines the importance and timeliness of this research. Actuality of the working out of the legal doctrine is closely connected with the problem of determination of its place and role in the development of domestic law and legal system as a whole. It is important to determine the structure of a legal doctrine and establish the conditions under which scientific provisions acquire features peculiar to the doctrine and are used in various branches of state-legal practice. It is actual the determination of optimal approaches and forms of such its use as in lawmaking and enforcement of law so, in particular, in judicial practice. Works by S. Maksymov, R. Puzikov, F. Shecaira, M. Van Hoecke, A. Vasiliev, Y. Yevgrafova are noteworthy among modern scientists researching this problem.

    A legal doctrine is the product of scientific activity, some kind of results of cognition of state-legal reality in a particular historical period. A legal doctrine is created as a result of carrying out of fundamental scientific researches connected with deep and a comprehensive analysis of the essence of the state-legal phenomena and processes and revealing of their objective laws of their appearance and development.

    This is the main reason for its high authority, a prerequisite to legitimate doctrinal provisions in legal consciousness of jurists and, as a result, perception by legal practice. The main functions of a legal doctrine – the interpretation and systematization of law. It also has a prescriptive nature as law contains a vision how it should be that is, its imaginary ideal image, justifying the need and feasibility of consolidating the rule of law, the formation of new branches and institutions of law and their improvement or reformation. An important part of a legal doctrine is estimated and prognostic component that contains program provisions and is the result of a critical analysis of practices of state- and lawmaking. A legal doctrine being practically oriented as complex of scientific knowledge of law has a complex multilevel structure, elements of each level of this structure differ by level of abstraction and have different degrees of generalization.

   This is firstly, partial legal doctrine – level of branch doctrinal elaborations in which thoroughly investigated certain areas of law: study their nature, peculiarities of formation, development trends and improved conceptual and categorical apparatus. Secondly, based on the systematization of branch doctrinal elaborations and their reflection and generalization it is formed general legal doctrine, the provisions of which are formulated in the abstract, most general form. Its core element is the doctrine on the sources of law and interpretation of legal rules and also argumentation theory. In modern legal systems of the Anglo-American law and Romano-Germanic law, as well as, in the domestic legal system, the legal doctrine – an integral part though non-normative element of the mechanism of legal regulation. It serves primarily as the ideological and theoretical foundation and theoretical core of rulemaking and promotes its correct understanding and application of legal orders.

   On the basis of the determined features, the legal doctrine can be defined as, predetermined by the character of the legal culture of society, a complete and logically coordinated set of ideas recognized by the legal community and scientific views on law which is the basis of professional legal conscience and conceptual framework of rulemaking, enforcement of law and interpretation of law activity.


legal doctrine; legal science; citation practice; source of law; legal system


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