The Culture of Private Law
45 Real Estate Law Journal 35 (2016)
57 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2016 Last revised: 6 Feb 2017
Date Written: August 23, 2016
The chief goal of private law is to guide and facilitate interpersonal conduct. In fields such as contracts, property, and corporate governance, lawmakers have an essential normative role of envisioning ideal types of collective action and designing legal and organizational mechanisms that will streamline these types of action, while also giving parties substantial leeway to tailor their interpersonal legal relations.
This Article argues that for such a legal design to be effective, regardless of the substantive content of its underlying normative values, lawmakers must consider the actual congruence between the ideal types of collective action envisioned by private law norms and the prevailing cultural orientations, values, and beliefs that practically guide everyday interactions in a certain society or group. To the extent that a private law reform wishes to promote a new type of collective action that is not initially supported by such grassroots forces, it must find ways to enable at least an incremental shift in the relevant cultural traits to facilitate the desired modes of interpersonal collaboration.
Rejecting an all-or-nothing approach to cultural change, this Article underscores the key role of collective-action organizations, such as business corporations or homeowner associations, in mediating between private law reforms and incremental cultural shifts.
Keywords: collective action, contracts, corporations, culture, private law, property
JEL Classification: D7, K11, K12, K22, M14, P32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation