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definition of kelsen's pyramid

In the sphere of law, legal norms have a hierarchy. It is a general principle that is present in the different legal systems of most countries. In this sense, the Kelsen pyramid allows us to understand the hierarchical order of the legal system.

In the legal field

Hans Kelsen (1881-1973) was a lawyer, jurist and philosopher born in the current Czech Republic and who professionally developed his career in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. He has gone down in the history of law for his work "Pure Theory of Law", for his appointment as judge of the Court of The Hague and for the pyramid of Kelsen. From the point of view of the philosophy of law, he is considered a defender of iuspositivism.

With his pyramid he tried to explain the legal norms within any territory. Thus, at the normative cusp there is usually a constitutional text or Magna Carta, from which all the remaining laws emanate.

At a lower level are organic laws and then ordinary laws (the former are more difficult to repeal than the latter).

In a lower step, you can find other types of laws, such as the decree law. At the base of the pyramid we would find the normative regulations.

The hierarchy principle is implicit in Kelsen's model

The pyramidal legal system described by Kelsen is based on the principle of hierarchy of norms. In other words, norms of lower rank cannot contradict those of higher rank. This implies that one rule always predominates over another.

The hierarchical principle in turn serves as a criterion for solving any possible contradiction or conflict between the laws. Thus, if a lower-ranking rule opposes or contradicts a higher-ranking rule, the former would not have legal validity. In this sense, in many nations there is a constitutional court whose mission is to interpret the legal validity of lower-ranking norms within a territory.

The geometric figure of the pyramid as a metaphor

The pyramid is a geometric figure that serves as an explanatory metaphor to refer to any reality in which there is some gradual or stepped scheme. Thus, there is Maslow's pyramid in psychology, the pyramid selling model or the food pyramid. All of them are governed by a gradual type scheme in which the higher elements implicitly lead to the lower ones.

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