PS 617 Comparative Legal Institutions

All political systems are grounded in law.  Yet law is far from identical across geographic borders, not only in terms of its substance but also in terms of the sorts of institutions that make up the legal system.  In this course we will consider how the role of law varies around the world. We will examine the variation in the structure and role of basic legal institutions.  We will assess the possible explanations for these variations – are they best explained by longstanding cultural traditions or by more contemporary political concerns (or perhaps a combination of both).  We will consider the influence of globalization – are countries increasingly being pressured to change their laws and legal institutions in order to gain admittance to trade alliances and to attract investment.  During the course of the semester, we will study how law has been used by various regimes to achieve their goals and to address prior societal wrongs, and discuss the circumstances under which this instrumental use of law may be appropriate.