The Law Was Never Our Own: The Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship, the German Law Journal, and the Meaning of Comparative Law

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Building a New Transatlantic Generation: Essays by Bosch Alumni. Stuttgart: Robert Bosch Stiftung, 2004.


comparative law; International law; Transnational law


For twenty years the Robert Bosch Foundation’s Fellowship has been contributing to the comparativist movement in the most poignant of ways: it has invited scores of American lawyers to work alongside their German colleagues, giving both invaluable opportunity to think about and learn from one another. These American lawyers have been given the most privileged, first-hand views on the practice of law, the legislative process, and the function of the judiciary in Germany. The Robert Bosch Foundation’s Fellowship has implicitly posited a dramatically new comparativist vision. While not abandoning the traditional justification for comparative legal analysis, the Fellowship at the same time serves as an internationalist, non-state-centered comparative juristic enterprise. The Fellows’ experience with the life of German law necessarily contains a challenge to the national character of German law. The Fellows are urged to make a distinct but not insignificant proprietary claim on German law. They ‘have’ German law in a way that invites us to imagine the ‘denationalization’ of the law and concomitantly the erosion of the nation-state’s privileged responsibility for and authority over the law. This perspective is particularly challenging so long as the law’s main frame of reference continues to be circumscribed and identifiable nation-states and so long as the promulgation and maintenance of a domestic legal order is understood as an (if not the) essential expression of statehood.

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