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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Transatlantic Debates

I just returned from the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law (Cambridge, UK), where the American Society of International Law and the European Society of International Law's International Legal Theory Interest groups jointly sponsored, with the support of Rechtskulturen of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, a fascinating workshop devoted to transatlantic legal theory.  The keynote address was given by Philip Allott, one of the leading international lawyers of his generation.  I was particularly struck by a comparison he made between United States and European legal minds. 

According to Allott, in the United States, "law is what judges do--law is social engineering--law is politics by other means--law is self-government--law justifies itself--the identity of a human being is primarily social (paradoxical in 'the land of the free')." 

In Europe, "law is a substantial reality--law is a hierarchy--law is a transformed product of politics--the general will is not the will of all--law is ultimately justified by what is beyond law--the social identity of the individual is secondary (paradoxical in the land of absolutism, totalitarianism, bureaucratic hegemonism)."

Is this a fair assessment of how we approach law in the United States?  If it is, was this always the case?  Or, is this a function of the turn towards legal realism?

Posted by Trey Childress on September 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

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