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Title: Legal contingencies : towards a radical behaviorist approach to law as a social system
Author: De Aguiar, Julio Cesar
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 2828
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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This paper puts forth a radical behaviorist approach to legal theory according to which law is a set of behavioral contingencies which control the behavior of individuals according to politically defined goals. Based on the proposition that modern legal systems, because of their inherent contingency and chronic mutability, are irremediably instrumental to politically defined social goals, and on the radical behaviorist fundamental assumption that a science of human behavior is possible, the paper develops what can be called a radical behaviorist perspective on social systems theory. According to this perspective, a social system is neither a collection of individuals nor of individual acts, but a class of interconnected behavioral patterns or cultural practices conditioned and maintained through the same generalized reinforcer, which, in the case of law, is the dichotomy between legal versus illegal. To construct this radical behaviorist perspective on social systems theory, the paper relies on three major theoretical foundations. The first one is a criticism of Skinner’s concept of verbal behavior according to which instead of a special kind of behavior, it is defined as nothing but the human species-specific operant control of the vocal musculature by social reinforcement contingencies. The second one is to propose a more functional alternative to Skinner’s concept of human social behavior as that kind of operant behavior which is conditioned and maintained by other people’s behavior. The third one is a dialogue between radical behaviorism and Luhmann’s social systems theory, whose main purpose is to provide radical behaviorism with a more sophisticated description of modern society which, despite several differences, is also radically anti-individualistic and evolutionary. The final part of the paper is a detailed discussion of how law controls human behavior.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociological jurisprudence ; Law ; Behaviorism (Psychology) ; Social systems