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The Missing View of the Cathedral: The Private Law Paradigm of European Legal Integration

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The traditional partition between public and private law continues to reinforce the belief that public law is the only proper realm of political debate, where decisions having redistributional consequences are and should be taken. This allows for a seemingly minor role of private law in the debate on European integration. This article challenges such a traditional image by noticing the central role of private law in the several legal systems of the European Union, and by analysing a few instances of resistance to private law integration. The analysis suggests that, while fully engaged in debating the public law implications of integration, Member States strive to keep civil adjudication within their control and to protect the self–contained, autonomous structure of their codes (or sets of private law doctrines) from the disruptive impact of European legislation. Integrationist pressures compel national legal actors to make explicit the social and economic choices underlying private law rules. Against such pressures, States’ resistance may take the shape of formalist entrenchment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Boston University School of Law

Publication date: March 1, 1997

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