Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 4: The aims of comparative law*

H. Patrick Glenn


The idea that comparative law must have a specific aim or aims became widespread through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as comparative law itself came to be recognized as a specific discipline. The idea assumes that comparative law is distinct from law itself, or subsidiary to it, and requires justification which law in its entirety would not. Today, however, comparative legal reasoning is increasingly evident in almost all dimensions of the practice and study of law, such that the aims of comparative law are increasingly difficult to state within a small compass. Comparative law is increasingly integrated into law itself, as a fundamental technique and means of support. The argument has thus already been made that comparative law should disappear as an autonomous subject (Reimann, 1996) or at least be seen as an integral dimension of all forms of legal endeavour (Glenn, 1999). These different attitudes towards the comparing of laws, and the aims of doing so, have been evident throughout legal history. Greek lawyers used the law of other Greek city-states to decide cases and the process of comparison was here no different from that of comparing one internal norm to another in the decision-making process.

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