Conceptualising ‘style’ in legal scholarship: the curious case of Zweigert's ‘style doctrine’

Péter Cserne

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Through a close reading of Konrad Zweigert's 1961 essay and related writings, the paper discusses his use of the term ‘style’ in the classification of legal families, making three arguments. First, Zweigert's use of style is methodologically naive. He uses style as a cluster concept, grouping an eclectic mix of features characteristic for the history, language, techniques, doctrines and values of national laws. His explicit sources seem to have provided associative and superficial inspiration rather than a theoretical basis for this terminological move. Second, Zweigert's methodology could have been improved by using more rigorous style concepts – and he seems to have been aware of the necessary theoretical resources. Third, such a commitment to a humanistic and cultural approach to comparative law is not easily reconciled with the blunt functionalism of Zweigert's programmatic methodological statements. His style doctrine is only compatible with a weak version of functionalism as a ‘methodological metaphor’: the version he actually espoused.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-309
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number3
Early online date17 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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