Cover: Law and Social Norms, from Harvard University PressCover: Law and Social Norms in PAPERBACK

Law and Social Norms

Product Details


Print on Demand

$38.00 • £33.95 • €34.95

ISBN 9780674008144

Publication Date: 03/08/2002


272 pages


Add to Cart

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Eric Posner wishes to improve the economic analysis of law by incorporating into it a more rigorous understanding of the impact on behavior of the social meaning of action. In his lucidly written and sharply argued book on the relation between law and “non-legal mechanisms of cooperation,” Posner contends that many conceptual confusions and embarrassing puzzles that have been generated by the economic analysis of law can be cleared up, and the research paradigm as a whole can be advanced, by taking account of the pervasive and powerful role of social norms.—Peter Berkowitz, The New Republic

Posner, in seeking to establish the central importance of what he calls “social norms,” gives the example of Christmas fruit cake: People bake fruit cakes, exchange them and sometimes try to eat them. No law requires this. And few enjoy it (as Posner stipulates). Yet people still manufacture them; such, Posner concludes, is the power of social norms which function as signals that players have won an advantage in the competitive “game” of life...[Posner’s] book concludes that social norms have evolved as arbitrarily as peacock’s tails have, and with much the same purpose—to signal their holders’ desirability as partners for strategic cooperation. Failure to conform to social norms reveals unreliability, even though—or, more precisely, because—such norms are fundamentally arbitrary and costly to maintain.—M.N.S. Sellers, The Washington Post

Eric Posner has written a bold and provocative thesis about one of the most important and fastest developing areas of legal scholarship. He has a powerful structure that states his thesis elegantly, acknowledges alternative views, applies his theories to a host of legal fields, and collects normative legal implications. Law and Social Norms should become one of the standard references to norm theory.—Ian Ayers, Yale Law School

Eric Posner discusses the leading issues on the agenda for research on law and social norms, providing detail and references that many scholars will value...Law and Social Norms aims at insights into a broad array of moral behavior based upon an economic vision of man, and it is a valuable source for hypotheses and insights about many normative facts and institutions.—Robert Cooter, University of California, Berkeley

With its innovative use of signaling models, Law and Social Norms makes a significant contribution to economic and legal theory. Using a parsimonious account of human behavior, Eric Posner pushes the domain of economics to include subjects recently considered only by sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. At a time when economics is struggling over how best to explain group solidarity, conformity, and social norms, this book promises to be influential in determining the path economic theorists take.—Richard H. McAdams, University of Illinois College of Law

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, by Peter Wilson, from Harvard University Press

A Lesson in German Military History with Peter Wilson

In his landmark book Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, acclaimed historian Peter H. Wilson offers a masterful reappraisal of German militarism and warfighting over the last five centuries, leading to the rise of Prussia and the world wars. Below, Wilson answers our questions about this complex history,