Comparative Law, Legal Transplants and Legal Change

  • George Mousourakis


Systems of law are concerned with relations between agents (human, legal, unincorporated and otherwise) at a variety of levels. At an international level, public international law governs relations between sovereign states and sets the limits for the exercise of state power in the light of generally recognized norms. At an international or transnational level also operate human rights law, international criminal law, refugee law, international environmental law, transnational arbitration and other systems. Functioning at a territorial state level are the legal systems of nation-states and sub-national (e.g. the legal systems of the individual states within federal states) or sub-state jurisdictions (e.g. the bye-laws of counties or municipalities and the laws of ethnic communities within states which enjoy a degree of autonomy). It is important to note that very few legal orders or systems of rules are complete, self-contained or impervious. Co-existing legal orders interact in complex ways: they may compete or conflict; sustain or reinforce each other; and often they influence each other through interaction, imposition, imitation and transplantation. Nowadays, national legal systems have become interconnected through the operation of international and transnational regimes in a variety of ways. They are subject to, and modified by, international conventions and treaties, trade regulations and various inter-state agreements. Some countries harmonize their laws, coordinate their fiscal policies, and agree to recognize each other’s judgments or cooperate in antitrust enforcement. The changes in the legal universe that have been taking place in the last few decades have increased the potential value of different kinds of comparative law information and thereby urged new objectives for the comparative law community. The comparative method, which was in the past applied in the traditional framework of domestic law, is now being adapted to the new needs created by the ongoing globalization process, becoming broader and more comprehensive with respect to both its scope and goals. Associated with this development is the growing interest in the issue of transferability or transplantability of legal norms and institutions across different systems, especially in so far as current legal integration and harmonization processes require reasonably transferable models. Following a discussion of factors accounting for the divergence and convergence of legal systems, this chapter critically examines the issue of transferability of laws with special attention being paid to the theory of legal transplants propounded by Professor Alan Watson, one of the most influential contemporary comparatists and legal historians.


  1. Abel R (1982) Law as lag: Inertia as a social theory of law. Mich Law Rev 80:785Google Scholar
  2. Agostini E (1988) Droit comparé, Paris, p 10ffGoogle Scholar
  3. Ajani G (1995) By chance and by prestige: legal transplants in Russia and Easter Europe. Am J Comp Law 43:93Google Scholar
  4. Allen CK (1964) Law in the making, Oxford, p 101 ffGoogle Scholar
  5. Avi-Yonah R (2000) Globalization, tax competition and the fiscal crisis of the welfare state. Harv Law Rev 113:1573Google Scholar
  6. Barnard A (2000) History and theory in anthropology, Cambridge, p 158 ffGoogle Scholar
  7. Berkowitz D, Pistor K, Richard J-F (2003) The transplant effect. Am J Comp Law 51:163Google Scholar
  8. Bogdan M (1978) Different economic systems and comparative law. In: Comparative law yearbook, Leiden, p 1Google Scholar
  9. Bogdan M (1994) Comparative law, Deventer, p 61 ffGoogle Scholar
  10. Charny D (2000) Regulatory competition and the global coordination of labor standards. J Int Econ Law 3:281Google Scholar
  11. Damaska M (1986) The faces of justice and state authority, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  12. David R (1988) Les grands systèmes de droit contemporains, 9th edn. Paris, p 337 ffGoogle Scholar
  13. Dawson JP (1968) The oracles of the law, Ann Arbor, p 231Google Scholar
  14. del Vecchio G (1960) Les bases du droit comparé et les principes généraux du droit. Revue internationale de droit comparé 12:493Google Scholar
  15. Ewald W (1995) Comparative Jurisprudence (II): the logic of legal transplants. Am J Comp Law 43:489Google Scholar
  16. Ferrari V (1990) Socio-legal concepts and their comparison. In: Oeyen E (ed) Comparative methodology, London, p 63Google Scholar
  17. Friedman LM (1973) A history of American law, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Friedmann W (1972) Law in a changing society, 2nd edn. Harmondsworth, pp 22–23Google Scholar
  19. Gardner JA (1980) Legal imperialism: American lawyers and foreign aid in Latin America, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  20. Gillespie J (2001) Globalisation and legal transplantation: lessons from the past. Deakin Law Rev 6:286Google Scholar
  21. Graziadei M (2009) Legal transplants and the frontiers of legal knowledge. Theor Inq Law 10:723Google Scholar
  22. Graziadei M (2019) Comparative law, transplants and receptions. In: Reimann M, Zimmermann R (eds) The Oxford handbook of comparative law, 2nd edn, Oxford, p 442Google Scholar
  23. Grossfeld B (1990) The strength and weakness of comparative law, New York, p 75 ffGoogle Scholar
  24. Hamano SB (1999) Incomplete revolutions and not so Alien transplants: the Japanese constitution and human rights. Univ Pa J Const Law 1:415Google Scholar
  25. King M (1997) Comparing legal cultures in the quest for law’s identity. In: Nelken D (ed) Comparing legal cultures, Brookfield, p 119Google Scholar
  26. Knieper R (1996) Rechtsimperialismus? Zeitschrift für Rechtspolitik 29:64Google Scholar
  27. Langbein JH (1985) The German advantage in civil procedure. Univ Chicago Law Rev 52:823–824Google Scholar
  28. Legrand P (1996) European systems are not converging. Int Comp Law Q 45:52–61Google Scholar
  29. Legrand P (1997) The impossibility of legal transplants. Maastricht J Eur Comp Law 4:116–120Google Scholar
  30. Legrand P (2001) What ‘legal transplant’? In: Nelken D, Feest J (eds) Adapting legal cultures, Oxford, p 55Google Scholar
  31. Levi-Strauss C (2001) Race et histoire, Paris, p 103 ffGoogle Scholar
  32. Levy E (1950) The reception of highly developed legal systems by peoples of different cultures. Wash Law Rev 25:233Google Scholar
  33. Luhmann N (1995) Social systems, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  34. Markesinis B (ed) (1994) The gradual convergence: foreign ideas, foreign influences, and English law on the eve of the 21st century, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  35. Mattei U (1994) Efficiency in legal transplants: an essay in comparative law and economics. Int Rev Law Econ 14:3 ffGoogle Scholar
  36. Mattei U, Pulitini F (1991) A competitive model of legal rules. In: Breton A et al (eds) The competitive state, Dordrecht, p 207 ffGoogle Scholar
  37. Minear RH (1970) Japanese tradition and Western law: emperor, state, and law in the thought of Hozumi Yatsuka, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  38. Mirow M (2000) The power of codification in Latin America: Simon Bolivar and the Code Napoleon. Tulane J Int Comp Law 8:83Google Scholar
  39. Mirow M (2001) Borrowing private law in Latin America: Andres Bello’s use of the code Napoleon in drafting the Chilean Civil Code. Louisiana Law Rev 61:291Google Scholar
  40. Mirow M (2004) Latin American law: a history of private law and institutions in Spanish America, AustinGoogle Scholar
  41. Murdock GP (1971) How culture changes. In: Shapiro H (ed) Man culture and society, New York, p 256Google Scholar
  42. Nelken D (2003) Comparatists and transferability. In: Legrand P, Munday R (eds) Comparative legal studies: traditions and transitions, Cambridge, p 437Google Scholar
  43. Neuman GL (2004) The uses of international law in constitutional interpretation. Am J Int Law 98:82Google Scholar
  44. Örücü E (2002) Law as transposition. Int Comp Law Q 51:205Google Scholar
  45. Priban J, Nelken D (eds) (2001) Law’s new boundaries: the consequences of legal autopoiesis, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  46. Rodière R (1979) Introduction au droit comparé, Paris, p 4 ffGoogle Scholar
  47. Röhl W (2005) History of law in Japan since 1868. LeidenGoogle Scholar
  48. Sacco R (1991) Legal formants; a dynamic approach to comparative law I. Am J Comp Law 39:1Google Scholar
  49. Schlesinger R (1995) The past and future of comparative law. Am J Comp Law 43:477Google Scholar
  50. Seidman A, Seidman RB (1996) Drafting legislation for development: lessons from a Chinese project. Am J Comp Law 44:1Google Scholar
  51. Seizelet E (1992) European law and tradition in Japan during the Meiji Era, 1868–1912. In: Mommsen WJ, de Moor JA (eds) European expansion and law: the encounter of European and Indigenous Law in the 19th and 20th Century Africa and Asia, Oxford, p 59Google Scholar
  52. Siems M (2007) The end of comparative law. J Comp Law 2:133Google Scholar
  53. Siems M (2018) Comparative law, 2nd edn. Cambridge, p 231 ffGoogle Scholar
  54. Stein E (1977–1978) Uses, Misuses and Nonuses of comparative law. Northw Univ Law Rev 72:198Google Scholar
  55. Tarde G (1890) Les Lois de l’Imitation, ParisGoogle Scholar
  56. Teubner G (1993) Law as an autopoietic system, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  57. Teubner G (1998) Legal irritants: good faith in British law or how unifying law ends up in new divergences. Mod Law Rev 61(1):11Google Scholar
  58. Tylor EB (2010) Primitive culture, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  59. von Mehren AT (1971) An academic tradition for comparative law? Am J Comp Law 19:624Google Scholar
  60. Wahl E (1973) Influences climatiques sur l’évolution du droit en Orient et en Occident. Contribution au régionalisme en droit comparé. Revue internationale de droit comparé 25(2):261–276Google Scholar
  61. Watson A (1976) Legal transplants and law reform. Law Q Rev 92:79Google Scholar
  62. Watson A (1977) Society and legal change, 2nd edn. Edinburgh (Philadelphia 2001)Google Scholar
  63. Watson A (1978) Comparative law and legal change. Camb Law J 37:313Google Scholar
  64. Watson A (1984) Sources of law, legal change, and ambiguity, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  65. Watson A (1985) The evolution of law, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  66. Watson A (1991a) Roman law and comparative law, Athens, p 97Google Scholar
  67. Watson A (1991b) Legal origins and legal change, LondonGoogle Scholar
  68. Watson A (1996) Aspects of reception of law. Am J Comp Law 44:335Google Scholar
  69. Watson A (2001) The evolution of Western private law, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  70. Wise EM (1990) The transplant of legal patterns. Am J Comp Law 38:1Google Scholar
  71. Zimmerman R (1995) Common law and civil law, Amerika und Europa – zu diesem Band. In: Zimmerman R (ed) Amerikanische Rechtskultur und europäisches Privatrecht, Tübingen, p 1Google Scholar
  72. Zweigert K (1966) Des solutions identiques par des voies différentes. Revue internationale de droit comparé, 5ffGoogle Scholar
  73. Zweigert K, Kötz H (1987) An introduction to comparative law, 2nd edn. Oxford, pp 37 ffGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations