The first issue of Retfærd was in 1976 and was significant, as the appearance of a new legal journal in the Nordic countries is a rare event.
This journal also aimed at being different from the existing ones, with the subtitle of “journal for Marxist legal thinking”.
The first volumes of Retfærd described its objective. According to the introduction:
Retfærd shall work as a forum for the promotion of theoretical and strategic analysis of legal matters on a broad Marxist foundation of social studies. This entails a strategic union of theoretical work and political practice. We aim at a legal science which can contribute to the working class’ fight against capitalism and in favour of socialism
With this starting point, Retfærd has now lasted for over 30 years. Nevertheless, the foundations of the journal have gradually evolved. According to the introduction in volume 50 (1990):
Retfærd is a Nordic legal journal, which works in a critical socialist foundation.
The introduction in volume 75 (1996) developed this mission:
Retfærd envisages the law in a correlation with politics, economics, ecology and culture. Retfærd will contribute to unveil the oppressive features of the law, and furthermore clarify the legal possibilities in the work for the improvement of the life situation of vulnerable groups.
With the latest revisions of the foundations of Retfærd, it emerges that Retfærd is a peer-reviewed journal of legal science that publishes innovative articles at the highest scientific level. The works published in Retfærd analyse the law from a theoretical and practical point of view on the basis of not only jurisprudence, but also sociology, criminology, political science, history, philosophy, economics, ecology, anthropology, feminism and other sciences. The journal therefore contributes to the interdisciplinarity of legal scholarship in a way that not only unveils relations of dominance in the law, but also focuses on critical legal science as an emancipatory endeavour.
Retfærd is no longer in opposition to established legal science, but participates on an equal footing with a long row of other journals in developing legal science in the Nordic countries. The journal still aims at setting new agendas, sheds light on the areas of society, that legal science has a tendency to overlook, and also outlines new perspectives on known areas of legal scholarship.
While the socialist perspective and the theoretical and practical aspirations were particularly evident in the first years of Retfærd, the feminist perspective was left in the darkness. In the first issue no woman was on the editorial board or among the contributors. At the time of issue 9, the first women on the editorial board had appeared. Number 10, which was issued in 1979, was devoted to women’s issues with exclusively women writers. Since then a more balanced gender-grouping has found its place among both contributors and members of the editorial board, and still today Retfærd is one of the main media for the publication of feminist legal theory in the Nordic countries.
At the start, Retfærd was a Danish journal, but with Nordic contact persons. Gradually, it has developed into a Pan-Nordic journal with separate editorial boards in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, each with an alternating responsibility for each volume. Retfærd has also progressively developed a more international profile, with a broader interest for the legal affairs outside of Scandinavia and for occasional articles in English, which address an international public.
One unique characteristic of Retfærd is that it has established and maintained a critical Nordic legal milieu. Through the years, annual editorial meetings with academic seminars have held a central role, where a large part of the discussion papers have later become articles in the journal. The journal therefore maintains close, local contacts with individual universities, while uniting them within a broader Nordic academic community.