The study of the patterns of legal thought can reveal aspects of economic institutions that are otherwise hard to grasp. The concepts lawyers use to denote the firm in corporate law or employment law, for example, disclose something about its economic nature. The chapter shows that the evolution of legal forms such as the corporation is the result of two conflicting pressures: on the one hand, to adjust the law to a changing external environment, and on the other, to maintain the internal consistency of legal thought. Hence, the gradual recognition of various forms of entity shielding and the assignment of legal personality to durable, self-governing associational arrangements was not only a historically specific development associated with the long process of industrialisation. It was also driven by law’s need to maintain internal, self-referential consistency, without which the legal system would dissolve into a mass of undifferentiated commands.
Simon Deakin and Frank Wilkinson
Simon Deakin and Katharina Pistor
In this research review, Professor Deakin and Professor Pistor include those key articles which highlight the major contributions to, but also the inherent limits of, the legal origin literature. They consider the merits of this approach in the context of three fields of inquiry: the study of comparative law; the analysis of the relation between law and markets; and the understanding of the role of legal systems in social ordering.