The Globalization of American Law

R. Daniel Kelemen, Eric C. Sibbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


A substantial body of research suggests that the United States has a distinctive legal style characterized by detailed rules, extensive transparency requirements, adversarial procedures for dispute resolution, costly legal contestation involving many lawyers, and frequent judicial intervention in administrative affairs. Recently, scholars of comparative law and public policy have asked whether this American legal style is spreading around the world. Some scholars have argued that legal styles are converging on an American model, while others have argued that distinctive national legal styles will persist. This article addresses this emerging debate. We argue that American legal style is spreading to other jurisdictions. However, we depart from predominant explanations, which attribute convergence to international regulatory competition or emulation. Instead, we argue that economic liberalization and political fragmentation have undermined traditional approaches to regulation and have generated functional pressures and political incentives to shift toward American legal style.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-136+i
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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