Theory and Anti-Theory in the Work of Allan Farnsworth
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When Allan Farnsworth passed away on January 31, 2005, the world lost a titan in the field of contracts. Farnsowrth has been described as “the great contemporary American scholar, and one of a handful of great world scholars, on the law of agreement...[He] was...perhaps The Authority on the law of contracts and much more.” Similarly, others have called him “the premiere figure in American Contracts law scholarship since the passing of Corbin and Dawson. The treatise and his half of the Second Restatement would be quite a contribution if there was nothing else.” Farnsworth’s casebook is perennially the most widely-adopted Contracts casebook at law schools in the United States, and has been used by generations of law students. His treatise, Farnsworth on Contracts, is an expository marvel of Contracts doctrine, and may well be the most-often cited authority on Contracts. He wrote dozens of thoughtful law review articles, and was also a leading international voice in the passage of the CISG and the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts. In the year or more since Farnsworth’s death, scholars have had time to begin to reflect on the final body of work that Farnsworth amassed. Inevitably, the role of historians comes into play, and various aspects of Farnsworth’s record have begun to be reexamined in a new light subsequent to his death. Peter Linzer is one such historian and scholar, who has wondered about Farnsworth’s appreciation for the work of theoretical scholars in the latter half of the twentieth century. While Farnsworth appreciated such modern theoretical approaches to Contracts, his appreciation was only to a certain extent. In his talk at the International Contracts Conference held at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law on February 24-25, 2006, Professor Linzer shared his thoughts and theories on the subject of Farnsworth’s appreciation (or lack thereof) for theoretical approaches to Contract law. The members of the panel (Larry Garvin, Hila Keren, Randy Barnett, Joseph Perillo, and David Campbell) responded to Professor Linzer’s thoughts with some challenges to Linzer’s theory, including a debate about the meaning of the term “theorist” and whether Farnsworth’s disposition towards theory was or was not favorable, and whether such disposition was a function of his generation.
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