Until quite recently questions about methodology in legal research have been largely confined to understanding the role of doctrinal research as a scholarly discipline. In turn this has involved asking questions not only about coverage but, fundamentally, questions about the identity of the discipline. Is it (mainly) descriptive, hermeneutical, or normative? Should it also be explanatory? Legal scholarship has been torn between, on the one hand, grasping the expanding reality of law and its context, and, on the other, reducing this complex whole to manageable proportions. The purely internal analysis of a legal system, isolated from any societal context, remains an option, and is still seen in the approach of the French academy, but as law aims at ordering society and influencing human behaviour, this approach is felt by many scholars to be insufficient.
Consequently many attempts have been made to conceive legal research differently. Social scientific and comparative approaches have proven fruitful. However, does the introduction of other approaches leave merely a residue of ‘legal doctrine’, to which pockets of social sciences can be added, or should legal doctrine be merged with the social sciences? What would such a broad interdisciplinary field look like and what would its methods be? This book is an attempt to answer some of these questions.
Mark Van Hoecke is Research Professor for Legal Theory and Comparative Law at the University of Ghent. From 2008 till 2011 he also held the position of Research Professor for the Methodology of Comparative Law at the University of Tilburg, in which frame this book has been produced.
We thank Emma Swinden for the pointer.
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