What the centipede knows: Polycentricity and ‘theory’ for common lawyers

Swaminathan, Shivprasad (2020) What the centipede knows: Polycentricity and ‘theory’ for common lawyers. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 40 (2). pp. 265-290. ISSN 1436503

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For Michael Polanyi, ‘polycentricity’ was a method of decision making - of which he saw the common law as a prime exemplar - where numerous decision makers mutually adjust their decisions to their expectations of what will pass muster with the community of decision makers, without the use of any common blueprint. This article argues that Polanyi’s idea of polycentricity -once disentangled from Lon Fuller’s borrowed, but unrelated, use of the term - has the potential to illuminate much for the legal theorist. First, from several elements in the common law’s functioning that are liable to come across as ‘muddling through’, polycentricity helps us glean a sophisticated philosophical method primed to cut through difficult moral problems. Secondly, the idea of polycentricity helps locate - and address - the incongruity between the functioning of the common law and the theoretical model typically used to construct ‘theory’ in various areas, especially private law, which manifests in practitioners’ wariness of theory.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Polycentricity | Common law | Tacit knowledge | Artificial reason Michael Polanyi | Sir Edward Coke | Sir Mathew Hale
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Amees Mohammad
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2021 10:53
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2022 03:53
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/ojls/gqaa005
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/336


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