The Feudal Origins of the Western Legal Tradition

2020, Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Ordo), 70(1): 3-20.

20 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2020 Last revised: 2 Apr 2020

See all articles by Cameron Harwick

Cameron Harwick

SUNY College at Brockport

Hilton L. Root

George Mason University - School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs; George Mason University - Schar School of Policy and Government

Date Written: March 16, 2020

Abstract

This paper draws a distinction between ‘communitarian’ and ‘rationalist’ legal orders on the basis of the implied political strategy. We argue that the West’s solution to the paradox of governance – that a government strong enough to protect rights cannot itself be restrained from violating those rights – originates in certain aspects of the feudal contract, a confluence of aspects of communitarian Germanic law, which enshrined a contractual notion of political authority, and rationalistic Roman law, which supported large-scale political organization. We trace the tradition of strong but limited government to the conflict between factions with an interest in these legal traditions – nobles and the crown, respectively – and draw limited conclusions for legal development in non-Western contexts.

Keywords: Legal origins, Economic history, Institutions, Norms, European history

JEL Classification: K1, N90, P51

Suggested Citation

Harwick, Cameron and Root, Hilton L., The Feudal Origins of the Western Legal Tradition (March 16, 2020). 2020, Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Ordo), 70(1): 3-20., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3502955

Cameron Harwick (Contact Author)

SUNY College at Brockport ( email )

Brockport, NY 14420
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cameronharwick.com

Hilton L. Root

George Mason University - School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs ( email )

Founders Hall
3351 Fairfax Dr.
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

George Mason University - Schar School of Policy and Government ( email )

Founders Hall, Fifth Floor
3351 Fairfax Drive, MS 3B1
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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