A Network-Based Taxonomy of the World's Legal Systems

Durham Law School Working Paper March 2014

31 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2014 Last revised: 18 Dec 2015

See all articles by Mathias Siems

Mathias Siems

European University Institute (EUI); University of Cambridge - Centre for Business Research; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: March 22, 2014


Legal scholars, economists and other social scientist often refer to the idea that countries can be classified into a number of “legal families” or “legal origins”. Yet, this research is unsatisfactory as regards the actual classifications of the legal systems of the world. Legal scholars often do not attempt to classify all countries: rather, in comparative law textbooks, the legal family taxonomy merely serves as a didactic device to outline some similarities and differences between selected countries. This paper also suggests that the legal origins taxonomy, popular with financial economists, is problematic, since, if one traces the source of this taxonomy, there are no substantive explanations why a particular country is considered as belonging to one of these categories.

Thus, it is the aim of this paper to fill this gap and to develop a more robust taxonomy of legal systems. This taxonomy is based on a new dataset of 157 countries that is subsequently analysed with tools of network analysis. Applying tools of cluster optimisation, this paper finds that the world’s legal systems can be divided into the four clusters of the “Global Anglosphere”, the “Modern European Legal Culture”, the “Rule by Law or Religion”, and the “Weak Law in Transition”. It displays those clusters in a map, akin to the Inglehart-Welzel cultural map. Finally, it is suggested that identifying such clusters has important implications, not only for our understanding of the legal world, but also for the feasibility of legal transplants and harmonisation. Future research may also examine how these legal networks and clusters are related to economic and other data.

A revised version of this paper, entitled "Varieties of Legal Systems: Towards a New Global Taxonomy", is available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2703292.

Keywords: network analysis, legal origins, law and finance, legal families, comparative law, legal transplants

JEL Classification: B52, D85, K00, K40, N20, O57, P37

Suggested Citation

Siems, Mathias, A Network-Based Taxonomy of the World's Legal Systems (March 22, 2014). Durham Law School Working Paper March 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2387584 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2387584

Mathias Siems (Contact Author)

European University Institute (EUI) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
Firenze, 50139

HOME PAGE: http://www.eui.eu/siems

University of Cambridge - Centre for Business Research ( email )

Top Floor, Judge Business School Building
Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.cbr.cam.ac.uk/people/research-associates/mathias-m-siems/

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

HOME PAGE: http://ecgi.global/users/mathias-siems

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