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date: 01 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Scholars coming afresh to the study of criminal law are indeed fortunate. Over the last twenty years, important and sophisticated new theoretical approaches have evolved, and much new theoretical life has been breathed into more traditional approaches, to their mutual benefit. This article attempts to convey a flavour of these developments, with a different overarching theme: over-ambition and (all-too-often) under-achievement on the part of those who believe the task of ‘theory’ is to give very detailed and definite shape to the ‘universalizable’ part of the criminal law. It may be possible to devise a set of simplified and general universalizable maxims of criminal liability, to which all States could be urged to adhere in their criminal codes and case law. Beyond the formulation of such simplified maxims, however, richness and diversity in criminal law theory should go hand in hand with richness and diversity in criminal law doctrine. Whatever the strength of the case for, say, a uniform commercial law code, the belief that there needs to be a uniform criminal code is founded on theoretical error as well as political naivety.

Keywords: criminal law theory, legal scholarship, criminal liability, commercial law code

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