Failures of the Legal Imagination

Failures of the Legal Imagination

Failures of the Legal Imagination

Failures of the Legal Imagination

Synopsis

In this masterful choreography of legal philosophy, legal history, and comparative law, Alan Watson draws from ancient Roman, English, and French law to assess how lawmakers fail to envision ways to provide society with laws geared toward precise political or social goals.

Excerpt

This book grew out of the Julius Rosenthal lectures that I had the honor and delight of giving at the Northwestern School of Law in October 1987. Chapters 1, 3, and 5 are versions of the three lectures, and each is devoted to a striking example of “failures of the legal imagination,” the title of the lecture series. Quite deliberately, each lecture deals with a very different theme. In Chapter 1, I want to show that even when legislators are dedicated to making a new start, they are often so blinkered by the legal tradition that, with regard to important branches of the law, they put forward no coherent social, political, or economic message. A major subtheme is that, contrary to the accepted view, the extent of the Reception of Roman law in civil law systems cannot be limited to or measured by the acceptance of Roman legal solutions. Chapter 3, the second lecture, is devoted to the proposition that even when it is the “setting in life” that determines the scope of legal rules in a particular society, the rules may still reflect their origins hundreds of years later in very changed circumstances. My aim in the third lecture, Chapter 5, is to demonstrate that important legal scholars and theorists, too, do not easily escape the parameters of legal debate fixed centuries before.

But the lectures, when written and assembled side by side . . .

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