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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

For much of the twentieth century, comparatists have divided the world into ‘legal families’ (such as the civil law, the common law, socialist law, etc.) and assigned each (national) legal system a place in one of them. The chapter argues that this taxonomic enterprise has largely remained at the descriptive state, entailed a misleading division into fixed categories, and that is has failed to produce real comparison between laws. It is also too static, state-centred, and Euro-centric to be workable under conditions of late twentieth and early twenty-first century globalism. It should be replaced by the paradigm of ‘legal traditions’ which not only emphasizes the evolving nature of law, but also avoids dividing the world into clearly separated groupings. Instead, a ‘legal traditions’ approach focuses on the fluidity, interaction, and resulting hybridity of laws, thus facilitating their comparison. As it is not tied to Western-style national legal systems, it can easily capture the laws of the whole world, including the increasingly important non-state forms of legal normativity. Since the chapter was written by the late H. Patrick Glenn over a decade ago, the editors added a postscript bringing the reader up to date on the scholarship on, and the debate about, legal families and traditions.

Keywords: legal nationalism, legal scientism, national legal systems, normative information, taxonomic categorization

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