Recent histories of American jurisprudence tend to ignore the fact that ideas that appeared in the United States often appeared simultaneously in Europe. Even those works that do not ignore the European context are content with tracing the influence or reception of European thought in America. This article suggests that another possible approach is to compare jurisprudential developments in the United States, Europe, and other places in order to reach more general, sociology-of-knowledge-like insights into the reasons why certain ideas appear at certain times and places. One concrete example is discussed: the rise of an interest in the distinction between formal and living law (or between law in the books and law in action) in American and European jurisprudence in the first decade of the twentieth century. This distinction was central to the work of Roscoe Pound in the United States and the work of the Austro-Hungarian legal thinker Eugen Ehrlich. Pound and Ehrlich shared similar personal backgrounds. When they began advocating the study of informal law, both Pound and Ehrlich were teaching law in provincial towns (Czernowitz and Lincoln) situated on the frontiers of empires. Both towns were marginal places where different cultures clashed and where the legal culture of the center of the empire had only a tenuous hold. Scholars working in such an environment, it is argued, would tend to be more aware of the gap between formal state law and the actual norms governing the daily lives of people than scholars working at the center of an empire. The article offers additional support for this argument by looking at the scholarship of Guido Tedeschi, an Italian-Israeli legal scholar who taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1940s. The article concludes by calling for the study of the history of American jurisprudence from a comparative perspective, taking into account such issues as the interaction between center and periphery and between empire and provinces in more than one national context.
Legal History, Theory and Process
Date of this Version
, "Czernowitz, Lincoln, Jerusalem, and the Comparative History of American Jurisprudence" (March 2008). Tel Aviv University Law Faculty Papers. Working Paper 69.