Document Type



This article was written as a contribution to a symposium honoring Judge Guido Calabresi on the occasion of his 80th birthday, and recognizing his contributions to law and economics. It situates Judge Calabresi’s academic writings, starting with his initial contributions to law and neoclassical economics, against the broader backdrop of American legal theory. The article begins with a brief biographical sketch highlighting the author’s personal connection with Judge Calabresi. It then lays out the historical relationship between legal realism and law and neoclassical economics (commonly referred to as law and economics). This provides the background for Judge Calabresi’s initial major intervention — in the form of his historic book, The Costs of Accidents — into the discourse of American legal theory. The article then discusses what the author argues is a fundamental axis around which debates concerning the meaning of law revolve: the science-politics divide. This sets the groundwork for articulating the ways in which the three dominant strands of legal theory in the 1980s — law and economics, critical legal studies, and liberal-rights theory — were centered on the issue of whether law (and legal theory) was fundamentally a political or scientific enterprise. The article ends with an extended discussion of the ways in which Judge Calabresi’s post-The Costs of Accidents writings, too often overlooked, respond to the science-politics debate in a philosophically pragmatic way that reflects (and has paved the way for) the current state of American legal theory.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Calabresi, Law & Economics

Original Citation

James R. Hackney, Jr., Guido Calabresi and the Construction of Contemporary American Legal Theory, 77 L. and Contemp. Problems, 45 (2015).

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