The New Legal Realism

22 June 2006 at 11:55 am 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

Oliver Williamson attributes to Karl Llewellyn the idea of contracts as frameworks for structuring relationships rather than abstract, formal rules that apply independent of context. Llewellyn was also a founder of legal realism, an early-twentieth-century movement to make the study of law not only more pragmatic and realistic, but also more firmly grounded in modern social science. Llewellyn's writings don't appeal to everyone, but his ideas have been revived by a movement known as the New Legal Realism. The new legal realists aim

to develop rigorous, genuinely interdisciplinary approaches to the empirical study of law. In recent years, legal academics have shown renewed interest in social science. However, to date there has been no organized paradigm within the legal academy for translating and integrating diverse social science disciplines and methodologies. NLR scholarship pays systematic attention to this process of translation and integration. Like the "old" legal realists, we seek to bring the best of current social science and legal scholarship to bear on important policy issues of our day — but with the benefit of several generations of new knowledge.

The blog Empirical Legal Studies is running a series on this (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, more to come). Brian Leiter is not impressed. I'm not sure exactly what it all means for the economic analysis of contracting and organization but plan to follow the debate, at least from afar. (HT: Conglomerate Blog)

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Fabio Rojas  |  22 June 2006 at 2:59 pm

    “However, to date there has been no organized paradigm within the legal academy for translating and integrating diverse social science disciplines and methodologies.”

    I don’t see this as a problem. From the social science perspective, law is just like family, organizations or the state – one complex domain of activity that can be approached with many disciplines. The key is to see which disciplines do the best job in explaining concrete features of legal behavior. I can see why other people are not impressed.

    You know what I would be interested in? A list of “top 25” aspects of the law that are in need of social scientific explanations. That would be neat.

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