In this Article, I conduct a long overdue assessment of Henry Maine’s “from Status to Contract” thesis in light of two essentially modern phenomena: contract standardization and relational contracting. Drawing on comparative legal history, classical sociological and anthropological literature, contemporary contract law theory, and recent works in the field of (behavioral) law and economics, I discuss the claim that modern private law is witnessing a reverse movement “from Contract to Status.” I show that this claim is historically inaccurate and conceptually simplistic in that it attributes shades of meaning to status that Maine never contemplated. I dedicate the remainder of the Article to exploring why—in the face of clear countervailing evidence—modern private law scholars continue to engage in Mainean “status”-speak. For this purpose, I tease out several interesting parallels between status as part of Maine’s theory and “status” as part of modern private law discourse.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Schmidt Revisits Maine's "Modern Law"
Katharina Isabel Schmidt, a graduate student at Princeton and Yale, has posted Henry Maine's “Modern Law”: From Status to Contract and Back Again? which is forthcoming in the American Journal of Comparative Law: