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 40: Legal families*

Jaakko Husa


Comparative law is notoriously accustomed to dealing with big packages as for example common law, civil law and Islamic law. As is well known, these are called ‘legal families’ in the language of academic comparative law, albeit there is no consensus on what a ‘legal family’ actually is. In the absence of a clear-cut definition of ‘legal family’, it may be regarded as a conceptual and methodological device of the comparative lawyer, not as sociologist of law or legal theoretician, but as lawyer. It has been suggested that, as an academic field, comparative law may be divided into two main areas of research, yet this division is flexible as to its nature. There is macro-comparative law and micro-comparative law. Customarily the micro-comparison deals with specific legal rules, cases and institutions that are conceived from the point of view of actual problems or particular legal conflicts of interests, whereas the macro-comparison normally focuses on larger-scale themes and questions. Systematization, grouping and classification of the legal systems of the world lie at the heart of macro-comparative law: it deals with the comparison of entire legal systems, not specific small-scale questions of a legal nature (Zweigert and Kötz, 1998; Örücü, 2004b).

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