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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Research Canons: A General Law Canon?

As discussed in this post, the Research Canons project is designed to provide lists of essential works for the many legal subject areas in the academy.  However, is there also a general canon for all academics -- works that everyone, no matter the field, is expected to have some familiarity with?  If so, what would those works be?

Posted by Matt Bodie on September 5, 2006 at 03:30 PM in Research Canons | Permalink


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If you are an econ Ph.D./J.D. who is doing empirical work in corporate law, then I would assume that most of your colleagues who focus in, say, Constitutional Criminal Procedure or First Amendment will have no idea what you are doing talking about most of the time anyway.

But even those folks are going to want to cite to at least the Delaware Chancery Court every once in a while, and when they do they should have a "deeper" understanding about what that mid-level state court is doing.

Similarly, a deontological Con Law scholar who thinks that "balancing" our rights to a fair trial or unreasonable searches, even in wartime, should still have to understand Coase's theorems and read Posner.

Posted by: Rich B. | Sep 7, 2006 9:05:49 AM

Let me play devil's advocate for a minute. Let's say I'm an econ Ph.D./J.D. who is doing empirical work in corporate law. Do I really have to have read Hart, Fuller, or Llewellyn?

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Sep 6, 2006 12:24:47 PM

I would recommend the Law Review article about the Spelunkian Explorers (Lon Fuller, The Case of the Spelunkian Explorers, 62 Harv.L. REV. 616 (1949)) and Philippa Foote's "Trolley Problem" article (don't have a cite) for basic legal/ethical reasoning.

As I did not see a subtopic for "Jurisprudence", I assume thatthe topic is subsumed by the "General Law" category. As such I recommend all Tten books suggested by Larry Solum, and all ten books suggested in response by Brian Leiter.

Both Solum's and Leiter's Top Ten lists are in this 2003 post:


H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law,
Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights
Richard Posner, Economic Analysis of Law
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law
Lon Fuller, The Morality of Law
Roger Shiner, Norm and Nature: The Movements of Legal Thought
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Bruce Ackerman, We the People: Foundations
Duncan Kennedy, A Critique of Adjudication

Karl Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush
Hans Kelsen, Pure Theory of Law
Lon Fuller, The Morality of Law
H.L.A. Hart, The Concept of Law
H.L.A. Hart, Essays in Jurisprudence and Philosophy
Joseph Raz, The Authority of Law
John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights
Ronald Dworkin, Law's Empire
Gerald Postema, Bentham and the Common Law Tradition
Leslie Green, The Authority of the State

Posted by: Rich B. | Sep 6, 2006 10:12:48 AM

Dworkin's Taking Rights Seriously
Hillel Levin also posted here about the most important law review articles of all time: http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2005/04/most_important_.html

Posted by: Dan Markel | Sep 5, 2006 4:26:11 PM

I would include:
The Problem of Social Cost
One View of the Cathedral
The Bramble Bush

Posted by: Matt | Sep 5, 2006 4:25:29 PM

Among others:

Hart's The Concept of Law
Posner's Economic Analysis of Law (I'd put in The Problems of Jurisprudence or Overcoming Law, but are they canonical?)
Gilmore's Ages of American Law
Holmes's Common Law, and his Path of the Law article

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Sep 5, 2006 4:17:14 PM

I'll make a suggestion: "Order without Law" by Robert Ellickson. I've heard it referred to in a variety of different contexts.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Sep 5, 2006 3:35:52 PM

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