Classical Social Theory and Ideas of Responsibility and the State in France and Germany

Roger Cotterrell



  Social theory can aid comparative legal studies by revealing currents of social ideas in which law develops. A comparison of major contributions to French and German social theory between the mid-nineteenth and the early twentieth century presents striking contrasts in understandings of the nature of legal responsibility and the function of the state. It shows two different movements of thought: one elaborating a view of law mainly as a technology of government overseeing and co-ordinating individual interests; the other emphasising the law’s importance in nurturing social solidarity and facilitating collective responsibility.


Comte; Von Stein; Tönnies; Weber; Gierke; solidarism; Durkheim; Duguit; individualism; collective responsibility; solidarity; functions of law; modern state

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