Introducing Comparative Law

  • George Mousourakis


The term comparative law does not denote a specific branch of positive law, or a body of rules governing a particular field of social activity. When we speak, for instance, of the comparative law of marriage, we do not refer to a set of rules regulating relations between husband and wife; we merely refer to the fact that the marriage laws of two or more countries have been subjected to a process of comparison with a view to ascertaining their differences and similarities. The term ‘comparative law’ denotes, therefore, a form of study and research whose object is the comparison of legal systems with a view to obtaining knowledge that may be used for a variety of theoretical and practical purposes. In the words of Zweigert and Kötz, comparative law is “an intellectual activity with law as its object and comparison as its process.” Comparative law embraces: the comparing of legal systems with the purpose of detecting their differences and similarities; working with the differences and similarities that have been detected (for instance explaining their origins, evaluating the solutions utilized in different legal systems, grouping legal systems into families of law or searching for the common core of the systems under comparison); and the treatment of the methodological problems that arise in connection with these tasks, including methodological problems connected to the study of foreign law. As the above definitions suggest, the scope of comparative law is extremely broad and its subject-matter can never be treated in an exhaustive manner, for one can hardly imagine all the possible purposes and dimensions of legal comparison.


  1. Agostini E (1988) Droit comparé. Paris, p 10 ffGoogle Scholar
  2. Anscombe GEM (1958) On brute facts. Analysis 18(3):69Google Scholar
  3. Barreau H (1995) L’ épistémologie, 3rd edn. Paris, p 51Google Scholar
  4. Bernhöft F (1878) Über Zweck und Mittel der vergleichenden Rechtswissenschaft. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft 1:1Google Scholar
  5. Bogdan M (1994) Comparative law. Deventer, p 18Google Scholar
  6. Coing H (1956) Das deutsche Schuldrecht und die Rechtsvergleichung. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift, 569, 670Google Scholar
  7. Dannemann G (2019) Comparative law: study of similarities or differences? In: Reimann M, Zimmerman R (eds) The Oxford handbook of comparative law, 2nd edn. Oxford, pp 390, 392Google Scholar
  8. David R (1988) Les grands systèmes de droit contemporains, 9th edn. Paris, p 42 ffGoogle Scholar
  9. Ewald W (1995) Comparative jurisprudence (1): what was it like to try a rat? Univ Pa Law Rev 143:1889, 1944Google Scholar
  10. Ewald W (1998) The jurisprudential approach to comparative law: a field guide to ‘rats’. Am J Comp Law 46:701Google Scholar
  11. Friedrich CJ (1963) The philosophy of law in historical perspective. Chicago, pp 233–234Google Scholar
  12. Gordley J (2019) Comparative law and legal history. In: Reimann M, Zimmermann R (eds) The Oxford handbook of comparative law, 2nd edn. Oxford, p 754Google Scholar
  13. Grossfeld B (1990) The strength and weakness of comparative law. OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Gutteridge HC (1946) Comparative law: an introduction to the comparative method of legal study and research. Cambridge, repr. (2015), p 4Google Scholar
  15. Hall J (1963) Comparative law and social theory. Baton Rouge, pp 7–10Google Scholar
  16. Hart HLA (1961) The concept of law. Oxford, pp 77–96Google Scholar
  17. Hug W (1932) The history of comparative law. Harv Law Rev 45(6):1027Google Scholar
  18. Langrod G (1957) Quelques réflexions méthodologiques sur la comparaison en science juridique. Revue internationale de droit comparé 9:363–369Google Scholar
  19. Lawson FH (1977) The comparison: selected essays, vol II. Amsterdam, p 59Google Scholar
  20. MacCormick N, Weinberger O (1986) An institutional theory of law: new approaches to legal positivism. Dordrecht, p 113Google Scholar
  21. Maitland FW (1911) Collected papers. Cambridge, pp 488–489Google Scholar
  22. Merryman JH (1998) It is the primary rules of obligation that have attracted most of the interest of comparative law scholars. Comparative law scholarship. Hast Int Comp Law Rev 21:771Google Scholar
  23. Orianne P (1990) Apprendre le droit: Eléments pour une pédagogie juridique. Paris, p 73 ffGoogle Scholar
  24. Örücü E (2004) The Enigma of comparative law. Dordrecht, repr. 2013, p 14Google Scholar
  25. Reitz JC (1998) How to do comparative law. Am J Comp Law 46:617, 618Google Scholar
  26. Rheinstein M (1987) Einführung in die Rechtsvergleichung. Munich, p 28Google Scholar
  27. Riles A (2019) Comparative law and socio-legal studies. In: Reimann M, Zimmerman R (eds) The Oxford handbook of comparative law, 2nd edn. Oxford, p 772Google Scholar
  28. Rodière R (1979) Introduction au droit comparé. Paris, p 4 ffGoogle Scholar
  29. Rothacker E (1957) Die vergleichende Methode in den Geisteswissenschaften. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft 60:13Google Scholar
  30. Sacco R (1991a) La comparaison juridique au service de la connaissance du droit. Paris, p 8Google Scholar
  31. Sacco R (1991b) Legal formants: a dynamic approach to comparative law. Am J Comp Law 39(1):389Google Scholar
  32. Samuel G (1998) Comparative law and jurisprudence. Int Comp Law Q 47:817Google Scholar
  33. Samuel G (2014) An introduction to comparative law theory and method. Oxford, p 8 ffGoogle Scholar
  34. Searle JR (1969) Speech acts. Cambridge, p 51Google Scholar
  35. Siems M (2018) Comparative law, 2nd edn. Cambridge, pp 6–7Google Scholar
  36. Watson A (1974) Legal transplants: an approach to comparative law, 2nd edn. Edinburgh, p 183 (Athens, 1993)Google Scholar
  37. White AA (2001) Max Weber and the uncertainties of categorical comparative law. In: Riles A (ed) Rethinking the masters of comparative law. Oxford, p 40Google Scholar
  38. Winterton G (1975) Comparative law teaching. Am J Comp Law 23:69Google Scholar
  39. Zweigert K, Kötz H (1977) An introduction to comparative law. Amsterdam, pp 9–10Google Scholar
  40. Zweigert K, Kötz H (1987) An introduction to comparative law. Oxford, p 2Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Mousourakis
    • 1
  1. 1.International RelationsRitsumeikan UniversityKyotoJapan

Personalised recommendations