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In the second of his two famous articles, Hohfeld seeks to do for the in rem/in personam distinction what he did so persuasively in his first for the terminology of rights, claims, duties, privileges, powers, immunities, and disabilities, which was to identify their essence, and to thereby describe the “natural kind” (in more modern parlance) lurking beneath the thicket of confused juristic rhetoric.1 The thesis in this second article, however, is a simpler and in some way more beguiling one than in his first. He claims that what the distinction between in rem and in personam jural relations comes down to is the contrast between what he calls “multital” and “paucital” relationships.2
In the century or so after the untimely death of Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, his ideas have been a source of inspiration for widely divergent streams of legal scholarship. More generally, the nature of his ideas and the circumstances of his life have placed him at the crossroads of many currents of legal and social thought, making him a – somewhat fortuitously – pivotal figure in legal theory. And, after all the many explications and applications of his framework, it is as fresh and in many ways as enigmatic as on the day he left it in its unfinished state.
Wesley Hohfeld is known the world over as the legal theorist who famously developed a taxonomy of legal concepts. His contributions to legal thinking have stood the test of time, remaining relevant nearly a century after they were first published. Yet, little systematic attention has been devoted to exploring the full significance of his work. Beginning with a lucid, annotated version of Hohfeld's most important article, this volume is the first to offer a comprehensive look at the scope, significance, reach, intricacies, and shortcomings of Hohfeld's work. Featuring insights from leading legal thinkers, the book also contains many of Hohfeld's previously unseen personal papers, shedding new light on the complex motivations behind Hohfeld's projects. Together, these selected papers and original essays reveal a portrait of a multifaceted and ambitious intellectual who did not live long enough to see the impact of his ideas on the study of law.