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Tort law and legal cultures
American Journal of Comparative Law (2015)
  • Mauro Bussani, University of Trieste
  • Marta Infantino

According to the common understanding, tort law is the branch of private law whose set of positive rules, institutions, and procedures aims to shift the costs of accidents from the victim to a different subject. Similar accounts of tort law are widespread and uncontested, yet they fail to do justice to the overall role tort law plays in the societies. Tort law does not live in parliaments, law firms, courts, and law books only. It also lives ‘in the shadow’ of the official system of adjudication: in the offices of insurance companies; in people’s notions about injury and risk, responsibility and justice; in the languages and images associated with law in mass-generated popular culture, as well as in public debates about what values should be protected and promoted, at what costs, and at the expenses of whom.

On the assumption that tort law is at the same time a product and a constituent of the very cultural framework in which it is embedded, the aim of this paper is to explore its cultural dimensions in a broad comparative perspective. Combining insights from legal anthropology, socio-legal literature, legal history, and comparative law, the article tries to understand the role that, in Western and non-Western legal traditions, tort law plays in responding to, and managing social conflicts. In this perspective, the paper studies the cultural frameworks that sustain the adjudication process outside and inside the courtrooms, and analyzes how notions, practices, and remedies of tort law ‘in action’ vary across different social and cultural settings. It then puts forward some conclusions about the extent to which tort law notions, ideas, concepts, categorizations, and perceptions influence and, reciprocally, are influenced by the cultural framework of which they are expression.

  • Tort law
Publication Date
Citation Information
Mauro Bussani and Marta Infantino. "Tort law and legal cultures" American Journal of Comparative Law Vol. 63 (2015)
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