Interdisciplinarity in Comparative Law – A Blessing or A Curse?

Interdisciplinary research – the collaboration or conglomeration of knowledge of two or more disciplines – is probably one of the main features in academia over the last 50 years. In comparative law, interdisciplinarity has been honed as the sine qua non. Yet, some have warned against or even criticized interdisciplinary efforts in comparative law research.

Comparative law is often linked with social sciences, economics and linguistics. Some of this interdisciplinary research has been more accepted than the other. Acceptance is usually contingent upon the perceived compatibility of the fields. Thus, comparative law research drawing from legal history is much more recognized than the application of law and economics concepts on a macro-comparative question.

Such bias is unfortunate, because comparative law as a discipline may greatly benefit from thinking outside the box by looking at other – more unusual -fields of research. The challenge is just to make sure that the basic principles of all disciplines combined are kept intact. Generally, collaboration among researchers seems to be the ideal way to go. Yet, unfortunately, legal academia tends not to be very open for that. So another solution might be to ensure better knowledge on an individual level through in-depth study of the other field used.

In subsequent posts, I intend to discuss some recent research on and in interdisciplinary comparative law.

Bibliography

  • Jaakko Husa, Interdisciplinary Comparative Law – Between Scylla and Charybdis?, 9 J. Comp. L 28-42 (2014).
  • Pierre Legrand, Le Droit Compare 3e ed. 47-48 (2009).
  • Geoffrey Samuel,  Does One Need an Understanding of Methodology in Law Before One Can Understand Comparative Law Methodology? 177-208, in: Methodologies for Legal Research: Which Kind of Method for What Kind or Discipline (Mark van Hoecke, ed. 2011).

Methodological Pluralism – A Third Phase of Comparative Law?

As previously posted, the first phase of comparative law was marked by the acceptance of legal comparison as tool for harmonizing or improving laws and culminated with the Paris Congress. Ernst Rabel was the originator of the second phase of comparative law which compared laws based on their functions. So the question now is if we are still within this second phase of comparative law or if we have already entered a third phase.

On the one hand, the functional method still enjoys controversial popularity in comparative law today. Thus, a renowned comparative law textbook, Introduction to Comparative Law by Zweigert and Koetz, propagates functionalism as comparative law method. Furthermore, numerous articles have been published discussing the validity of functionalism in comparative law. On the other hand, the functional method is far from uncontested today and several “alternatives” have emerged over the past decades: comparative law and economics, numerical comparative law, cultural comparative law … just to name a few.

Such methodological pluralism may be seen as the defining element of a third phase of comparative law. This phase is characterized by not having a single discernible methodology, but a plethora of sometimes controversial approaches that all have their applicability and validity in specific contexts. It depends on the individual comparative work to determine which of these methods is best suitable to answer the question at hand.

Comparative Law and Economics

Comparative law and economics applies – as the name already suggests – principles from the area of law and economics to issues of comparative law. It is a relatively recent method that was developed by economists camp and not by comparative lawyers.

Continue reading Comparative Law and Economics