30 November 2009


After reading Seán’s post (5 November) on William Twining’s recent book, I keep thinking about the former’s last few lines noting a few authors (de Sousa Santos, Glenn, Menski, Örücü, and Twining) that are, in his opinion, must-read authors for comparative lawyers.

Obviously others may have different lists. Just as obviously, if the comparative community conducted a survey, some authors or books would appear in many or most individual lists. Seán’s list might well have included, in my opinion, Raoul C van Caenegem and Rodolfo Sacco.

Another book that I’d include is the Portuguese legal philosopher Paulo Ferreira da Cunha’s Natureza & Arte do Direito (the nature and the art of law), published in Coimbra in 1999 by Almedina publishing house. I found the work profound and enlightening. While certainly not a mainstream book among comparatists—it’s not even a comparative law book in the strict sense—it is still very exciting food for thought for anyone speculating about the law as a social phenomenon. Cunha explores the artistic or aesthetic dimension of law. In so doing, he takes a position different, indeed the very opposite, from the usual Western modern stance, where the law is seen as a mostly technical or even ‘scientific’ human product. In contrasting art with technique, theory with aesthetic perception, reason with instinct, he sheds light on a substantial element of the law that is too often forgotten by western lawyers.

Which legal books would you take with you on a remote island – in addition of course to more mundane sports, music, and/or other more or less frivolous reading material?

Which author or authors woul you invite for dinner?

Past or present, canonical or niche figures, it’ll be interesting to discover which authors and books are part of the current (or common) core of comparative knowledge.

The floor is open …


  1. There are many, but I'll just rattle off a few titles that are quite notable in my opinion. I think that one of the essentials in the list has to be An Introduction to Comparative Law (Oxford 1998) by Konrad Zweigert, Hein Koetz, and Tony Weir. As a general treatment of comparative law, it stands apart due to the breadth of its coverage and the attention it gives to the rationale underlying comparative analysis. But I have more area-specific favorites such as Jacqueline Hodgson’s book entitled French Criminal Justice: A Comparative Account of the Investigation and Prosecution of Crime in France (Hart 2005). Similarly, regarding Middle Eastern legal systems, Chibli Mallat has a great book entitled Introduction to Middle Eastern Law (Oxford 2009) which offers a focused overview of that region. On a related note, Professor Mallat has also recently published a fascinating book on Iraqi law entitled Iraq: Guide to Law & Policy (Aspen 2009) which gives the most comprehensive treatment of Iraqi law to date. Any one of these would be great to have if stranded on that hypothetical island.

  2. For what it’s worth, my starting eleven might include:

    1. Patrick Glenn
    2. John H Langbein
    3. Werner Menski
    4. David Nelken
    5. Esin Örücü
    6. Vernon Palmer
    7. Rodolfo Sacco
    8. Boaventura de Sousa Santos
    9. Charles Taylor
    10. William Twining
    11. Gordon Woodman

    Note that this was done quickly and was limited to the living. Note, too, that I'd have them gather in Rome at a restaurant frequented by other legal anthropologists, historians, philosophers, sociologists, etc.

    I've been fortunate enough to meet (and sometimes even dine with) several of these individuals, most recently with Esin Örücü. But more to come on that soon ...

  3. There are a few of these that I have not read yet, I'm glad I stumbled across this. Also, Rodolpho Sacco is a must.