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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics, Second Edition

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This thoroughly updated and revised edition of a popular and authoritative reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant issues, and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed yet theoretically congruent ideas.
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Chapter 32: Connections with Law and Society Research

Jürgen G. Backhaus


Jürgen G. Backhaus This entry will point to some connections between law and society research, on the one hand, and law and economics work, on the other. In emphasizing general similarities, we are trying to connect different bodies of literature that stem from different disciplinary backgrounds but which, in complementing each other, might be fruitfully combined in interdisciplinary law and economics–law and society projects. ‘The study of legal change can be considered to be at the heart of sociology of law as an enterprise’ (Cotterrell, 1995, p. 351). As a matter of fact, the same holds for a substantial body of literature in law and economics. Although most law and economics work discusses the end point of legal change as the outcome of purposeful interaction (of legislatures, courts, plaintiffs and defendants, and so on), prominent scholars in particular in the field of economic history have interpreted the course of economic history in terms of a change of structures (of property rights assignments) in order to capture externalities and thereby more fully facilitate economic growth. A leading proponent of this approach is Douglass North (see North, 1981). Specifically, since economics is a social science (Frey, 1992) devoted to any circumstance in which alternatives have to be weighed against each other from the point of view of an identifiable agent with sufficiently clear objectives (Buchanan, 1969), law and economics research is not confined to the sphere of the purely economic. In this respect as well, the...

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