Ernest-Alexandre Roguin, Étude de science juridique pure – La règle du droit (Analyse générale, spécialités, souveraineté des États, assiette de l’impôt, théorie des statuts) – Système des rapports de droit privée précédé d’une introduction sur la classification des disciplines, Paris/ Lausanne: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence/ F. Rouge, 1889.
Fourtyfive years before Hans Kelsen published his “Reine Rechtslehre” (1934), Ernest Roguin inaugurated his highly independent project of a “Science juridique pure” in 1889, entitled “La règle de droit”. He pretends to provide a view on jurisprudence absolutely neutral, without any traces of critique, and without any valuations on questions of justice nor of moral philosophy. This thoroughly ambitious writing turns out to be a merely dogmatic treatise on general jurisprudence, as an introductory lecture the author was charged to hold at the University of Lausanne. What Kelsen had done by his collection of the core questions of public law (“Hauptprobleme der Staatsrechtslehre”, 1st ed. 1911, 2nd ed. 1923), Roguin tried to do with the matters of private law (“Système de rapport de droit privé”). His purely dogmatic point of view he later confirmed in a three-volumes writing with the title “La science juridique pure”. His dogmatism, however, is not of the same kind and has not the same motivation and foundation as does Kelsen’s Reine Rechtslehre. The perspective of Roguin is rooted in classical French positivism, especially positivist sociology, whereas the position of Kelsen is undoubtedly founded in neo-positivist theory. (For more detailed informations see Sandrine Pina: La recherche d’une science pure du droit – L’œuvre méconnue d’Ernest Roguin face à la théorie de Hans Kelsen, in: Droits, Revue française de théorie, de philosophie et de cultures juridiques, vol. 2014/ 2, Nr. 60, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2014.)
Historical Situation and Systematic Context
When defining his own standpoint, Ernest Roguin is clearly conscious not to provide a piece of natural law, nor reflections about legal philosophy in the proper sense, nor to give a historical overview. As an example, he chooses chemistry (or he could also choose biology) and pretends to argue in an analytical and synthetical way, a procedure that is meant to serve for the examination of juridical matters (“examen de choses”). By doing so, he wants to avoid the term of dogmatism, confessing to consider this notion to be highly misleading. On the one hand, he is aware of dogmatism and, on the other hand, he elevates the dogmatical system of judgments to a pre-condition of his legal thought, which is highly dogmatic. This ambiguity remains unsolved, even in the later intention to consolidate and to confirm his theory. Today, it may resemble a kind of self-dispensation to pretend to be able to derive practical consequences from so-called truths in a domain such as jurisprudence.
There is a biographical explanation for such a behaviour in theory building, however. Ernest Roguin must have been an intimate friend of Vilfredo Pareto, the sociologist originating from Italy who settled in Lausanne. In an article, it is mentioned that the rising star of Roguin had already declined early; “Son évocation demeure cependant incontournable lorsque l’on évoque Pareto. Il a en effe été, sinon véritablement proche de ce dernier, du moins son plus fidèle ami dans une faculté où Pareto s’est en réalité créé peu de liens”. (Denis Tappy: Vilfredo Pareto and Ernest Roguin, in: Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto, Revue européenne de science sociales, vol. XLVIII (2010), pp. 146 ss.) Pareto has been one of the founding fathers of political economy and his writings have apparently not been of any interest to jurisprudents in his time, with the exemption of Roguin.
The system built by Ernest Roguin seems to be influenced by vitalism, a current inclination in France, later leading to the existentialism of Henri Bergson among others. He constantly refers to the system by his method of classification. However, this kind of system building turns out to be inappropriate for the problems faced by jurisprudence. This kind of systematisation is routed in organic functions of parts in the context of a whole. This deviation of logics is highly misunderstanding, when creation is considered to be a modality of imagination that no longer follows the reasonable rules of thought. History or better historicity as well as criticism are also understood as functions within this kind of biological connectivity. The functional approach is intimately combined with the virtue of jurisprudential artistry (“l’art juridique”), subsequently.
The allusion of a pure theory of legal reasoning, inaugurated by Ernest Roguin, tends to dismiss the term of nature and to focus entirely on economics instead. This argument is developed in the second chapter we have selected as our proposition to read. It may surprise that in such a context Roguin is still referring to the nature of things as a point of reference: “Notre travail n’est en aucune façon ni une oeuvre de critique ni une oeuvre d’histoire. Il est simplement un essai de science pure; il procède en faisant des suppositions qu’il emprunte indifféremment à l’histoire et à l’imagination, à la seule condition qu’elles soient conformes à la nature des choses; il analyse et classe les relation ainsi constituées artificiellement, puis il en recherche les consequences forcées”.
Conclusions, Insights, Evidence
Once criticism and history have been omitted, there is little help provided by identifying the reasons that could found some practices and disqualify others. Eventually everything becomes a matter of artificial construction and deriving consequences according to whatever logic.
Philosophical Valuation and Jurisprudential Significance
A well founded appreciation and critique of the overall approach by Ernest Roguin can be found in an article by Norberto Bobbio: Le Vaudois Ernest Roguin, sociologue et théoricien du droit, in: Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto, Revue européenne de science sociales, vol. XIX (1981), Nr. 59, pp. 121 ss. The arguments developed hereby and the insights gained will be condensed and discussed on the occasion of the introduction and commentary on the more extensive writings by Roguin, “La science juridique pure” (see no. 1.5 of this Legal Anthology), that build so to say a chain with the book published a generation’s lifetime earlier.
Further Information About the Author
Ernest Roguin, born on 27 May 1851 in Yverdon-les-Bains, died on 5 May 1939 in Lausanne, followed his studies in jurisprudence at the Universities of Lausanne and Leipzig from 1869 onwards and obtained his master’s degree in 1874 by the Academy of Lausanne (which at that time has not yet been a University properly speaking and, therefore, did not have the permission to award doctorates). In the very beginning of his career, he was sent as a diplomat to Paris until 1884; and later in his life he was sent as a Swiss representative to the Den Haag Conferences. Even in 1884, he was nominated an extraordinary professor at the University of Lausanne, and from 1880 to 1926 he taught academic courses in the domains of international civil law, comparison of legal orders as well as introductions to jurisprudence. From 1903 to 1917, he signed as president of the École des sciences sociales et politiques, and from 1891 he was a member of the Institut de droit international. In his time, Roguin was highly regarded as an outstanding jurisprudent and received many titles and honours.
The thesis of Ernest Roguin was dedicated to article 50 of the Swiss Federal Constitution and appeared in 1880. In his main domain, he published a first treatise on “Conflits des lois suisses en matière internationale et intercantonale” and between 1904 and 1912 appeared his magistral work “Traité de droit civil compare” in seven volumes. Our focus, however, is on the two titles covering legal philosophy, i.e. the early volume “La régle de droit” (1889) and the tree volumes proposing “La science juridique pure” (1923).
For more information about the person, please consult:
Norberto Bobbio: Le vaudois Ernest Roguin, sociologue et théoricien du droit, in: Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto, Jg. 181, Nr. 59, S. 121-140;
François Guisan: Ernest Roguin, in: Schweizer Juristen der letzten hundert Jahre, mit einem Vorwort von Max Huber, mit einer historischen Einleitung von Eduard His, hrsg. von Hans Schulthess, Zürich: Schulthess & Co. A.-G., 1945, S. 393ff.
Selected Works of the Same Author
Ernest Roguin: Étude de science juridique pure – La règle du droit (Analyse générale, spécialités, souveraineté des États, assiette de l’impôt, théorie des statuts) – Système des rapports de droit privée précédé d’une introduction sur la classification des disciplines, Paris/ Lausanne: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence/ F. Rouge, 1889; Idem: Observation sur la codification des lois civiles, Lausanne: Ch. Ciret-Genton, 1896, pp. 73-134; Idem: La science juridique pure, 3 vols., Paris/ Lausanne: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence/ F. Rouge 1923; Idem: Sociologie 5 vols., Lausanne: C. Pasche, 1928-1932.
For Further Reading
Norberto Bobbio: Le Vaudois Ernest Roguin, sociologue et théoricien du droit, in: Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto, Revue européenne de science sociales, vol. XIX (1981), Nr. 59, pp. 121 ss.;
Sandrine Pina: La recherche d’une science pure du droit. L’œuvre méconnue d’Ernest Roguin face à la théorie de Hans Kelsen, in: Droits, Revue française de théorie, de philosophie et de cultures juridiques, vol. 2014/ 2, Nr. 60, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2014;
Ernest Roguin: La science juridique pure, 3 vols., Paris/ Lausanne: Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence/ F. Rouge 1923;
Denis Tappy: Vilfredo Pareto and Ernest Roguin, in: Cahiers Vilfredo Pareto, Revue européenne de science sociales, vol. XLVIII (2010), pp. 146 ss.
You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Roguin Règle de droit