Twentieth Century Tort Theory

92 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2002


This article analyzes twentieth-century tort scholarship in terms of a five-sided debate between compensation-deterrence theory, enterprise liability theory, economic deterrence theory, social justice theory, and individual justice theory. It surveys, parses, and analyzes the central interpretive and prescriptive claims made by each of these theories, exploring and exposing to criticism their underlying assumptions and commitments. The article concludes with a plea for greater theoretical self-consciousness among tort scholars, and for a shift in focus away from the strict-liability v. negligence debate.

Keywords: Calabresi, Coase, corrective justice, history, interpretive, negligence, Posner, pragmatism, prescriptive, private law, strict liability, theory, torts, Weinrib

Suggested Citation

Goldberg, John C. P., Twentieth Century Tort Theory. Available at SSRN: or

John C. P. Goldberg (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Areeda 232
1545 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2086 (Phone)

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