Symbolic Legislation: An Essentially Political Concept

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


Symbolic legislation commonly has a bad name. In critical sociological studies, it refers to instances of legislation that are to a large extent ineffective and that serve other political and social goals than the goals officially proclaimed. Since the nineties of the last century another concept of symbolic legislation is developed, in particular in Dutch legislation theory. In this more recent and more positive understanding, symbolic legislation is an alternative legislative technique that differs from the traditional top-down approach. The question that is addressed in this chapter, is whether there is a real – in the sense of epistemologically real – difference between the two concepts of symbolic legislation. On what grounds can the allegedly negative and positive concepts be differentiated from each other? Is it possible that one instance of legislation can be classified as symbolic legislation both in the negative sense and in the positive sense? Are they two sides of the same coin or do they constitute mutually exclusive categories? As will be shown, the distinction between the two concepts cannot be made on scientific grounds only, but involves considerations of a political kind.
Period23 Oct 2014
Event titleConference 'Symbolic Dimensions of Biolaw
Event typeConference