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Texts, Contexts and Interpretative Communities: A Comment on Regina Ogorek

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019


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1 Some of the most interesting work in the history of political thought during the last ten years has shared this common theme: that is, the contrast between a science of human conduct, a deductive system of universally applicable propositions; and a non-scientific account of it. See Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978); Wealth and Virtue (Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff eds., 1983); Collini, Stefan, Donald Winch and John Burrow, That Noble Science of Politics (1983). For an attempt to apply this notion to the history of legal science and legal education in England see David Sugarman, Legal Theory, the Common Law, Mind and the Making of the Textbook Tradition in Legal Theory and Common Law, 26 (Twining, William ed., 1986); “Impelled by a Hatred of Disorder”: English Legal Science, Liberalism and Empire, 1850-1914 (Paper to the seminar of the Shelby Cullum Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University, January 1988); The Legal Boundaries of Liberty: Dicey, Liberalism and Legal Science, 46 Modern Law Review 102 (1983).Google Scholar

2 See Sugarman, id. Google Scholar

3 See, for example, Robert. W. Gordon, Critical Legal Histories, 36 Stan. L. Rev. 57 (1984).Google Scholar

4 See, generally, Gordon, id. Google Scholar

5 Horwitz, Morton J., The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (1977)Google Scholar

6 See Ogorek, this issue, section C II, text accompanying note 20.Google Scholar

7 Id., section G.Google Scholar

9 See Sugarman, supra note 1. See also Michael.H. Hoeflich, Transatlantic Friendship and the German Influence on American Law in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, 35 American Journal of Comparative Law 599 (1987); John Austin and Joseph Story, Two Nineteenth Century Perspectives on the Utility of the Civil Law for the Common Lawyer, 29 American Journal of Legal History 36 (1985); Savigny and his Anglo-American Disciples, 37 American Journal of Comparative Law 17 (1989); Roman and Civil Law and the Development of Anglo-American Jurisprudence in the Nineteenth Century (1997); Clark, David S., Tracing the Roots of American Legal Education - A Nineteenth Century Germany Connection, 51 Rabels Zeitschrift 313 (1987)Google Scholar

10 See id. Google Scholar

11 See, further, Gordon supra note 3. Also, David Sugarman and G. Rubin, Towards a New History of Law and Material Society in England, 1750-1914 in Law, Economy and Society, 1750-1914: Essays in the History of English Law, chapter 1 (G. Rubin and David Sugarman eds., 1984); Sugarman, David, Theory and Practice in Law and History, in Law, State and Society, 70 (Bob Fryer et. al. eds., 1981).Google Scholar

12 See Sugarman, David, In the Spirit of Weber: Law, Modernity and the Peculiarities of the English, 48 (Institute of Legal Studies, Wisconsin University, Madison, Working Paper 2: 9, 1987).Google Scholar

13 The literature is enormous and what follows is a small sample of the methods and controversies that characterize this field: The Social History of Language (Peter Burke and Roy Porter eds., 1987); Darnton, Robert, Intellectual and Cultural History in The Past Before Us (Kammen, Michael ed., 1980); Dunn, John, The Identity of the History of Ideas, Philosophy, Politics and Society, 4th series (Peter Laslett, W.G. Runciman and Quentin Skinner eds., 1972); Gilbert, Felix, Intellectual History: Its Aims and Methods, 100 Daedelus 80 (1971); Hirsch, Eric D., The Aims of Interpretation (1976); Martin, Jay, Should Intellectual History Take a Linguistic Turn? in Modern European Intellectual History (Dominick L. LaCapra and Steven Kaplan eds., 1982); Martin, Jay, Two Cheers for Paraphrase, 3 Stanford Literature Review 47 (1986); Jones, R., On Understanding a Sociological Classic, 83 American Journal of Sociology 279 (1977); Kelley, Donald, Horizons of Intellectual History: Retrospect, Circumspect, Prospect, Journal of the History of Ideas 143 (1987); Krieger, Leonard, The Autonomy of the History of Ideas, 24 Journal of the History of Ideas 499 (1973); LaCapra, Dominick, Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading Texts, in Modern European Intellectual History (Dominick LaCapra and Steven L. Kaplan eds., 1982); Mandelbaum, Maurice, The History of Ideas, Intellectual History the History of Philosophy, History and Theory, Beiheft 5 (1965); Pagden, Anthony, The Language of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe (1987); Skinner, Quentin, Motives, Intentions and the Interpretation of Texts, 3 New Literary History 90 (1972); Toews, John, Intellectual History After the Linguistic Turn, 60 American Historical Review 878 (1987); White, Hayden, The Content of the Form (1987).Google Scholar

14 Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970); The Essential Tension (1977); see Barnes, B., T.S. Kuhn and Social Science (1981)Google Scholar

15 Haskell, T.L., Introduction in The Authority of Experts, xxiv (Haskell, T.L. ed., 1984). See, generally, T.L. Haskell, The Emergence of Professional Social Science (1977); Kevles, Daniel J., The Physicists (1971)Google Scholar

16 See Ashcraft, Richard, Political Theory and Political Action in Karl Mannhein's Thought, 23 Comparative Studies in Society and History 23 (1981); On the Problem of Methodology and the Nature of Political Theory, 3 Political Theory 5 (1975). See, further, his splendid magnum opus, Revolutionary Politics and Locke's Two Treatises of Government (1986).Google Scholar

17 See Robert Darnton's critique of histories of mentalites in The History of Mentalites, in Structure, Consciousness and History, 106 (Richard. H. Brown and Stanford M. Lyman eds., 1978); Darnton, supra note 13. See also Dominick LaCapra, History and Criticism, chapter 3 (1985).Google Scholar

18 See Sugarman, David, Legal Theory and Common Law, supra note 1 for an attempt to combine an interpretative communities approach with one sensitive to this process; see, especially, section V, Languages of Reciprocity and Conflict, 44-48.Google Scholar

19 J.G.A. Pocock, Politics, Languages and Time (1971); The Machiavellian Movement (1975); and Virtue, Commerce and History (1985).Google Scholar

20 For an excellent example of how to survey the intellectual contexts of a subject, see William Stafford, Socialism, Radicalism and Nostalgia: Social Criticism in Britain, 1775-1830, chapter 3, “Mental Furniture” (1987).Google Scholar

21 Jones, G. Stedman, Languages of Class, chapter 3 (Jones, G. Stedman ed., 1983); see Scott, Joan W., On Language, Gender and Working Class History, 31 International Labour and Working Class History 1 (1987).Google Scholar

22 See, for example, Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (1984) and William m. Reedy, The Rise of Market Culture (1984).Google Scholar

23 See Jarausch, Konrad H., Students, Society and Politics in Imperial Germany (1982); The Transformation of Higher Learning 1860-1930 (Jarausch, Konrad H. ed., 1983).Google Scholar

24 See, for example, David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley, The Peculiarities of German History (1984). This work is discussed in: David Sugarman, In the Spirit of Weber, supra note 12, 5255.Google Scholar

25 John, M.S., The Final Unification of Germany: Politics and the Codification of German Civil Law in the bürgerliches Gesetzbuch of 1896, (Oxford University, D. Phil. thesis, 1983); The Politics of Legal Unity in Germany, 1870-1896, 28 Historical Journal 341 (1985); The Peculiarities of the German State: Bourgeois Law and Society in the Imperial Era, 119 Past and Present 105 (1988).Google Scholar

26 John, M.F., The Peculiarities of the German State, id., 121 and 127.Google Scholar