What Commonwealth Jurists Can Learn from the New Private Law — Malcolm Lavoie

Post by guest blogger, Malcolm Lavoie, University of Alberta Faculty of Law

It is impossible to explain the “new private law” to non-American jurists without first describing a little bit of history: the rise of legal realism in the 20th century, with its hostility to formal doctrine, and the subsequent emphasis the American legal academy has placed on looking beyond private law doctrine to understand what is really going on, in economic, political, or other terms. As alluded to by Henry Smith in a recent post, the dominance of “external” approaches to law in private law scholarship has been a uniquely American phenomenon. In civil law jurisdictions, as well as in the Commonwealth, private law scholarship has retained its focus on legal doctrine, though it is sometimes complemented by functionalist approaches of various stripes. If the central aim of the “new private law” is to encourage approaches to scholarship that “take law seriously”, one might rightly ask what it has to offer to jurists from, say, England and the Commonwealth, where scholars never really stopped taking law seriously.

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