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Rediscovering Williston

Mark L. Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law

Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 62, 2005

This is an intellectual history of classical contracts scholar Samuel Williston. I argue that the conventional account of Williston's jurisprudence presents an incomplete and distorted picture. While much of Williston's work can strike a contemporary reader as arid and conceptual, there are strong elements of pragmatism as well. Williston insists that doctrine be justified in terms of real-world consequences, maintains that rules can have only presumptive force, and offers institutional explanations for judicial restraint. As a result, his scholarship shares more in common with today's new formalism than we commonly suppose. Even the undertheorized quality of Williston's scholarship - to modern readers, the least appealing aspect of his work - makes a certain amount of sense, given his goals and intended audience.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 107

Keywords: Classical Legal Theory, Contracts, Formalism, Jurisprudence, Legal History, Williston

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K12, K19

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Date posted: November 6, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark L., Rediscovering Williston. Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 62, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=602004

Contact Information

Mark L. Movsesian (Contact Author)
St. John's University School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-5650 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/faculty/profiles/Movsesian
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