Private Law Scholarship in 20th Century Germany from a Comparative Perspective

March 16, 2018

Stefan Vogenauer recently published a contribution in the edited volume 'Private Law Development in Context: German Private Law and Scholarship in the 20th Century' (Editor Stefan Grundmann and Karl Riesenhuber).

The book collects individual portraits of 37 private law professors from German-speaking jurisdictions whose major scholarly achievements were published in the 20th century, stretching from Ernst Rabel (1874-1955) to Gunther Teubner (born 1944). Taken together, they aim to represent an intellectual history of modern German private law thinking.

Vogenauer was invited by the editors to make a cross-sectional assessment of these biographical sketches from a comparative perspective: is there anything resembling an overall picture of German private law scholarship that emerges from them, and is it possible to convey this picture to a non-German audience?

In reply, Vogenauer borrows the iconic advertising slogan of a German car maker that has been used to great success in the English speaking world: Vorsprung durch Technik – German legal scholarship has an ‘advantage through technology’ vis-à-vis the institutions that compete for influence in the legal system, namely the legislature and the judiciary. Like the best products of German engineering and craftsmanship, its sophistication, efficiency, robustness and adaptability give it an edge over its competitors.

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