|Friederich Carl von Savigny (1779–1861) was founder of the German Historical School, and regarded law as the mere expression of social conditions.|
The ‘Darwin’ of German legal theory—Carl von Savigny and the German School of Historical Law
by Augusto Zimmermann
The German School of Historical Law became known throughout Europe at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when many German jurists opposed the introduction of a uniform legal code to the Germanic Confederation. The leading legal historicist of the time, Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779–1861), still holds a status in German ‘legal science’ which is akin to Charles Darwin for the ‘science’ of biological evolution. Savigny, whose jurisprudence is extremely influential even to the present day, emphasized the historical limitations of the law and approached legality as a mere expression of evolving convictions and aspirations of any particular people over a period of time. The only standards which remained in such a legal philosophy were contextual and relative, since these standards would have no other support apart from the temporary conditions of society. Unfortunately, German legal historicism contributed not only to historicist legal analysis but also to the development of two of the most deadly totalitarian ideologies this world has ever seen: Marxism and National Socialism.
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