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The Cosmopolitan Goal (Ideal?) of Comparative Law: Reassessing the Cornell Common Core Project

Siyi Huang

Comparatists do not ordinarily recognize the fact that the debates on comparative legal methodologies are always centered on how to understand other legal systems. Partial and parochial views contained in existing comparative studies reveal that comparativists should have a cosmopolitan goal, which means to avoid biases and partialities when they examines legal systems from their own perspectives. The Cornell Common Core Project, carried out in the 1960s at Cornell Law School, serves as an excellent example of how comparative legal studies could pursue the cosmopolitan goal. The factual method and the teamwork method employed by the Cornell Common Core Project are effective in preventing individual perspectives from distorting the images of legal systems under consideration. Nevertheless, the Project has shortfalls in its methodology, because the teamwork method incurs ‘internal biases’ and the leader of the Project, i.e., Rudolf Schlesinger, is an advocate for ‘searching similarities’. The conception of cosmopolitanism also faces the danger of being misinterpreted into legal ‘eschatology’. In spite of these limitations and danger, a new development in comparative legal methodology can be found to be currently in progress at Cornell Law School.

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