Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Pier Giuseppe Monateri
Chapter 4: Comparison as Deep Appreciation
Gary Watt* In his 1949 article on ‘The Field of Comparative Law’, F.H. Lawson wrote that comparative law is ‘bound to be superﬁcial’.1 Some years later Alan Watson acknowledged that superﬁciality will always remain a peril in comparative law scholarship.2 What counts as superﬁciality? Can we avoid it, and if so, how? An answer lies somewhere in the ongoing debate on the signiﬁcance of culture in comparative law. I hesitate to call it a ‘lively’ debate for we will see that the rival camps have lately established somewhat lodged positions and that the discourse between them is in danger of becoming as sterile as the no man’s land between warring trenches. On the one side there are scholars who argue that deep comparative law requires us to appreciate law in its cultural context, and speciﬁcally in the context of cultures, including those of the artist and artisan, which do not carry the label ‘legal’. Pierre Legrand stands at the vanguard of that camp. On the other side there are scholars who are content to compare laws in the context of legal cultures and legal histories, but see no necessary connection between historically-created laws and the wider culture in which those laws now reside. Alan Watson is the doyen of that view. Perhaps there are still those who do not think that culture exerts any inﬂuence at all on the practice and progress of laws. Strict adherents to law and economics might, for instance, argue...
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