Legal Transplants and the Frontiers of Legal Knowledge

Michele Graziadei


The study of legal transplants provides a vital critical supplement to mainstream theories about legal change. Legal transplants are not exceptional or isolated occurrences, despite the economic, social, political and cultural barriers that separate the world’s legal systems. This Article goes beyond traditional approaches to the study of transplants by substituting the figurative language of transplants with explicit theory about how legal change is produced. It first provides a brief account of what the literature on legal transplants has achieved so far in terms of "macro" explanations of legal change currently available. It then argues that legal transplants as social acts performed by individuals call for a study of the "micro" level of engagement with legal change by individuals. The key notion that is advanced to explore this dimension is the notion of mediated action, which denotes action that is performed by individuals making use of features of the environment as tools to interact in a specific setting. The notion of mediated action was first introduced in cultural-historical psychological investigations of the social formation of the mind. As social acts, legal transplants represent instances of mediated action. The last part of this Article highlights how legal transplants raise questions of justice and discusses briefly how the new approach to the study of transplants advocated here relates to them.

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