Introduction: Pragmatism and Private Law

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Introduction: Pragmatism and Private Law

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Title: Introduction: Pragmatism and Private Law
Author: Goldberg, John C.P.
Citation: John C. Goldberg, Introduction: Pragmatism and Private Law, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 1640 (2012).
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Abstract: It is not difficult to come up with a rough definition of private law. Private law defines the rights and duties of individuals and private entities as they relate to one another. Yet, whereas scholars in commonwealth jurisdictions generally are comfortable invoking this category, U.S. legal academics are not. The idea that “all law is public law” is no less taken for granted than the idea that “we are all realists now.”

This essay, written as the Introduction to a 2012 Harvard Law Review symposium, traces academic skepticism about private law to the dominance in the Twentieth Century of a particular species of pragmatism, which it labels “brass tacks pragmatism.” The essay then identifies an alternative but equally pragmatic approach to law — “inclusive pragmatism” — that permits less skeptical approaches. Finally, it outlines the elements of an emerging body of private law scholarship that is new precisely in its rejection of skepticism.
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