The Economic Base of Legal Culture: Networks and Monopolization

A.I. Ogus

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The paper provides an economic interpretation of legal culture. Drawing on analogies from other products and services markets, i argue that combinations of legal language, procedures and conceptual structures constitute a network which, mainly through cost considerations, come to occupy a dominant position in particular jurisdictions. The facts that a particular legal culture will be adopted by political rulers and that practising lawyers can both control entry to the profession and ‘capture’ law-making processes suggest that legal culture networks may be protected against competition. To the extent that they have monopolistic power, lawyers can exploit the key features of legal culture to extract rents: the law used can be more formalistic, more complex and more technical than is optimal. Whether the monopolistic power of a particular legal culture is sustainable depends on the relative strength of potential competitive forces. These can take the form of alternative cultures becoming available for particular branches of the law, thus partially dismantling the network, or through transfrontier transactions opening up the network to competition from foreign systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-434
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002

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