Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1997


The central argument of this paper is that the character of a nation's system of law is inextricably connected with its socio-economic, cultural, religious and political make-up. To understand the attitude of a nation towards other nations, one must not be ignorant of the laws through which that nation gives expression to its sense of justice and regulates its structure. Furthermore, one must bear in mind that each system of law has different concepts through which its law is expressed, language through which it is explained, categories by which it is organized, and legal rules which themselves embody the law in particular ways. The successful study of any legal system presupposes an awareness of such structural differences. A legal system, moreover, is distinct from a legal tradition. A legal system is an operating set of legal institutions, procedures, and rules. A legal tradition, however, is not a set of rules of law about contracts, corporations, and crimes (although such rules will almost always be in some sense a reflection of that tradition). Rather, a legal tradition is a set of a deeply-rooted, historically conditioned attitudes about the nature of law, the role of law in society; about the proper organization and operation of a legal system; and about the way law is or should be made, applied, studied, perfected and taught.