As society becomes more global and multicultural, many lawyers find themselves researching and applying principles and rules from several legal traditions. In Europe especially, the gradual convergence of civil law and common law that has been under way for decades is now gaining depth and breadth from aspects of Islamic, Asian, and African legal cultures, and we are all the better for it.
So it is time to take stock of where the discipline of comparative law stands and where it is going, a task ably undertaken in the sixteen insightful essays in this book. The originals of these papers were delivered at the 2000 W.G. Hart Legal Workshop at the Institute of Legal Studies of the University of London. They may be read here as not merely comparative law studies, but penetrating theses about what comparative law is actually about, or what it is for.
The general discussion tends to fall into three major areas:
- comparative public law, focusing on the growing scrutiny worldwide on constitutionalism, human rights, and administrative accountability;
- transmigration of legal ideas and institutions, emphasising the need to look at similarities and differences from an 'importation' perspective as well as from the once-exclusive 'exportation' perspective; and
- the European dimension, in which the need for the study of economic and social background and the role of law in the political process have come to the fore.
Comparative Law in the 21st Century confronts all these looming issues from a vantage point that reveals the broad contours of law as practised and studied today and tomorrow, highlighting fast-moving trends that were unsuspected as little as two decades ago.