Comparative Law’s Coming of Age? Twenty Years after Critical Comparisons
By Peer Zumbansen
From its first line, Günter Frankenberg’s article Critical Comparisons, published twenty years ago, leaves no doubt as to its radical claim and aspiration. Nothing short of attempting to “re-think” comparative law, the article sets out to attack many of the dearly held beliefs in the scholarship and practice of comparative law. The beliefs, the history, the believers, their work and struggles – they are all there. Frankenberg plows through them in order to lay bare what he conceives of as being an incorrectly defended myth of scholarly objectivity among many of the field’s pioneers and contemporary protagonists. Not being alone in his struggle of fiercely assailing the citadels of a nearly century-old comparativist scholarly venture, his crucial contribution to the field cannot now be denied. Whether we consider its open, frank, almost casual style, or its wide reaching theoretical reach, Critical Comparisons remains one of the most eminent articulations of the crisis of comparative law in its first century. At the time of the article’s 20th birthday, it is time to recollect, reassess and reconsider its main arguments and to play them back to the author and his readers. After a brief reconstruction of the article’s main contentions (Part B), this brief homage will contextualize the article within a larger attempt among comparativists and legal theorists to work towards a transnational legal science (Part C).B. Overcoming the Cinderella Complex
Critical Comparisons picks up Harold Gutteridge’s characterization of comparative law as a sleeping Cinderella, waiting for her prince to recognize her beauty and to kiss her into life. Frankenberg analyzes the “Cinderella Complex” and cautions against casual dismissal of its causes and symptoms. “The lack of interest among law teachers and students is real,” Frankenberg warns. In presenting the most common objections that lead to a marginalization of comparative law in academic teaching and research, not to mention the almost total neglect of the field in...