Code vs. Code: Nationalist and Internationalist Images of the Code Civil in the French Resistance to a European Codification

European Review of Contract Law, Vol. 8, Forthcoming 2012

20 Pages Posted: 24 May 2012

See all articles by Ralf Michaels

Ralf Michaels

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Date Written: May 22, 2012

Abstract

French academics reacted to announcements about a possible future European civil code ten years ago in the way in which Americans reacted to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 1940: first with shock, then with rearmament, finally with attempted counterattacks. Military metaphors abound. Yet the defense of the French Code Civil against a European civil code is tricky: they must defend one Code against another. The images drawn of codes are therefor of particular interest for our understanding both of civil codes and of legal nationalism. Often, two mutually exclusive images are presented at the same time. In cultural terms, the code civil is both traditional and revolutionary, both linguistically determined and independent of its language, both an expression of values and merely formal and neutral. Politically, the code civil is legitimated both in democracy and technocracy, it expresses both self-determination and imperialism, it is about both pluralism and universalism. Necessarily, in such juxtapositions, the same characteristics must be assigned to a European Code, making the arguments ultimately self-refuting. Nonetheless, the point is not to dismiss these defenses. Rather, they should be understood as expressions of faith — and the discussion over a European Code resembles, in part, a religious war.

Suggested Citation

Michaels, Ralf, Code vs. Code: Nationalist and Internationalist Images of the Code Civil in the French Resistance to a European Codification (May 22, 2012). European Review of Contract Law, Vol. 8, Forthcoming 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2065325

Ralf Michaels (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law ( email )

Mittelweg 187
Hamburg, D-20148
Germany

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