Law, Society, and Economy: Centenary Essays for the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895-1995

By Richard Rawlings | Go to book overview

3
The Sanctimony of Contract*

HUGH COLLINS


AN AGENDA FOR LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP

Our centenary year should be a time for a restatement of our objectives as lawyers at the LSE. How can lawyers contribute to the projects of a School of social sciences? In reconsidering those objectives in this inaugural lecture, it is worth reflecting on how the four previous holders of this Chair in English Law defined their respective contributions. They were important pioneers in our distinctive endeavours in legal education and scholarship. Building on their work, we have the exciting opportunity to delineate a new agenda for legal scholarship.

The Chair was created in 1924 at the instigation of Sir William Beveridge, the Director of the LSE, and Lord Atkin, a governor, and probably the most distinguished judge of the century. It was by no means obvious why lawyers should have a place in a school of social sciences. Beveridge justified the move by claiming that 'Law is an integral part of that study of mankind in society which is the true scope of the London School of Economics.'1 This claim slid over the difficulty presented by what Tim Murphy calls the different epistemic basis of law; legal knowledge is not a system for organizing statistical information about society, like sociology and economics; it is rather a system for organizing accumulated wisdom about how to govern society.2 Yet such a branch of knowledge was, of course, central to the latent agenda of the LSE: the training of students for government and the scientific management of human affairs. The vital contribution of legal studies to this objective combined with strong consumer demand from students for a full-time course in law created a concordance between business considerations and institutional ideals, which resulted in the creation of the Chair of English Law.

____________________
*
A revised version of an inaugural lecture given on 15 April 1995. I am grateful to Gunther Teubner and Colin Scott for their comments.
1
LSE Calendar, 1924-25, 22.
2
W. T. Murphy, 'The Oldest Social Science? The Epistemic Properties of the Common Law Tradition, ( 1991) 54 MLR, 182.

-63-

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