What Do We Really Know About the American Choice of Law Revolution?


There is a substantial book review in the new issue of the Standard Law Review (Oct 2007, Vol. 60, Issue 1): What Do We Really Know About the American Choice-of-Law Revolution? by Hillel Y. Levin (Stanford). It provides a detailed critique of Symeon Symeonides’ most recent book, The American Choice-of-Law Revolution: Past, Present and Future . Here’s some of the introduction:

Virtually everyone who has engaged in choice-of-law scholarship has had unflattering things said about him or her, and every scholar’s favorite methodology has come under attack. Given the reputation of the First Restatement of Conflicts of Laws, it should come as little surprise that Joseph Beale, its drafter, “has been the target of ridicule by practically every conflicts writer in the last four decades,” or that the First Restatement itself “has been the favorite punching bag of every conflicts teacher.” But the scholars who succeeded Beale and pioneered the modern approaches have fared no better, and neither have their theories. William Prosser memorably referred to conflicts scholars as “learned but eccentric professors who theorize about mysterious matters in a strange and incomprehensible jargon.” Prosser’s assessment is charitable compared to that of Lea Brillmayer, who has described them as “a wild-eyed community of intellectual zealots.” Meanwhile, the modern doctrinal approaches have yielded “gibberish” and “confused and misguided thinking.” In short, modern conflicts theory and doctrine is a mess—a “debacle,” according to one scholar—and there is no real consensus
on how to clean it up.

It is time for a new treatment of conflicts, one that does not approach it either through high-minded theory or as a set of convoluted law school exam fact patterns. What the field really needs is empirical inquiry: what has the revolution in choice of law wrought, and what can we learn from that? Intrepid researchers have undertaken this task in fits and starts over the past fifteen years or so, and the conflicts giant Dean Symeon Symeonides has been at the forefront of the project. His highly anticipated and ambitious new book, The American Choice-of-Law Revolution: Past, Present and Future, is the pinnacle of his efforts and aims to be the authoritative word on the impact of the revolution. First delivered as a series of lectures at The Hague Academy of International Law in 2002 and now widely available for the first time, it should be required reading for anyone engaging in conflicts scholarship.

You can download the full review from here (PDF). Highly recommended.