Lawrence Friedman's Comparative Law
LAW, SOCIETY AND HISTORY: ESSAYS ON THEMES IN THE LEGAL HISTORY AND LEGAL SOCIOLOGY OF LAWRENCE M. FRIEDMAN, Robert Gordon, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2010
16 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2009 Last revised: 16 Feb 2010
Date Written: December 17, 2009
For over four decades, Lawrence Friedman has been one of the key figures in American law and society studies, as well as the country’s leading legal historian. His unique vantage point has brought him into contact with a wide range of subfields in legal studies, including comparative law. Though he has never published in the leading journals of the discipline, Friedman’s series of book chapters and articles commenting on the field of comparative law have articulated a consistent and important methodological challenge. This essay elaborates Friedman’s comparative jurisprudence and argues that comparative law since the 1960s would have been much more fruitful had it followed Friedman’s advice to engage with the law and society tradition. The essay also critiques Friedman’s use of legal culture as the central focus of analysis. Friedman emphasizes similarities across societies, and hence rejects claims of incommensurability at a theoretical level. But in employing the empirically problematic concept of legal culture as his central explanatory variable, Friedman recreates incommensurability at a practical level.
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