Law and Economics in the 21st Century

  • Eli M Salzberger


Legal research and the methodology employed to analyze and evaluate the law are conducted within a paradigmatic thinking. The term “paradigm shift” was coined by Thomas Kuhn when he put forward a theory about the development of the natural sciences.1 Kuhn disputed the modernistic description of Frances Bacon who presented scientific inquiry as one of constant and accumulative progress, like a building, which is constructed stone after stone. Kuhn argued that science develops in leaps. Regular scientific research is conducted within a set of boundaries that are based on presuppositions left unquestioned by the contemporary scientific community. These boundaries were dubbed by Kuhn “a paradigm”. Scientists in their research (and in their research agenda) are trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle, where the framework of the puzzle is pre-determined by the paradigm. However, in the course of scientific research it turns out that not all pieces fit their spots, and some pieces tend to cross the set boundaries. Scientists try to force the pieces into the slots they think are meant for them. But at one focal point the framework collapses. Doubts bring about rethinking of the pre-set presuppositions. The paradigm shifts; a new paradigm is constructed, which sets new presuppositions and a new research agenda. Regular scientific research continues within the new paradigm, until that too is ripe for replacement.


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    Oren Gazal-Ayal’s argument according to which an important impetus for Law and Economics was the significant amounts of funds offered to research in the field, for example, by the Olin foundation, can be presented as falling in line with Kuhn’s analysis regarding the development of science. However, its not the funding which brought about the dominance of Law and Economics, but the other way around-research funding reflects the dominant paradigm of the day. See O. Gazal-Ayal, “Remarks on the Past and Future of economic Analysis”, Mechkarei Mishpat (forthcoming in Hebrew).Google Scholar
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    See, for example, W. M. Landes, R. A. Posner, “The Influence of Economics on Law: A Quantitative Study”, 36 J.L. & ECON. 385, (1993). The authors find that the number of citations of Law and Economics papers in law journal grew from 283 in 1976–1980, to 2227 in 1986–1990 (p. 398).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Niva Elkin Koren and Eli M. Salzberger, Law, Economics and cyberspace (2005), Ch. 8.Google Scholar
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    Steven G. Medema, Law and Economics and the Values of Imperial Science (2006).Google Scholar

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Eli M Salzberger
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of HaifaHaifa

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