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  • Cited by 6
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Silvant, Claire 2015. The question of inheritance in mid-nineteenth century French liberal thought. The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 22, Issue. 1, p. 51.

    Ohlsson, H. 2011. The legacy of the Swedish gift and inheritance tax, 1884-2004. European Review of Economic History, Vol. 15, Issue. 3, p. 539.

    Goodnow, Jacqueline J. and Lawrence, Jeanette A. 2010. Inheritance norms for distributions of money, land, and things in families. Family Science, Vol. 1, Issue. 2, p. 73.

    Joppke, Christian 2010. The Inevitable Lightening of Citizenship. European Journal of Sociology, Vol. 51, Issue. 01, p. 9.

    Beckert, Jens 2008. Why Is the Estate Tax so Controversial?. Society, Vol. 45, Issue. 6, p. 521.

    Hann, Chris 2008. Reproduction and Inheritance: Goody Revisited. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 37, Issue. 1, p. 145.


The Longue Durée of Inheritance Law*: Discourses and Institutional Development in France, Germany, and the United States since 1800

  • Jens Beckert (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2007

This article investigates discourses on inheritance law and legal development in France, Germany, and the United States since the revolutions of the late eighteenth century. I argue that in each of the three countries a different set of normative and functional issues relating to the bequest of property has dominated and expressed itself in nationally specific discursive fields. The respective “repertoires of evaluation“ were formed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and show a surprisingly stable pattern that can be recognized even in today's debates on the issue. This I refer to as the longue durée of inheritance law. The distinct discursive fields exercise a dominant influence over the perception of problems associated with the transfer of property mortis causa and the strategies deemed feasible to solve them. Moreover, I argue that the different cultural frames matter for the institutional development of inheritance law. My aim is to contribute to institutional theory through investigation of a socially and economically important realm of legal regulation that has received little attention in recent sociological scholarship. The analysis is carried out within a multidimensional theoretical framework that acknowledges the influence of culture and ideas, but also considers changing socioeconomic conditions, as well as actor interests.

L'article propose une étude comparative (France, Allemagne, États-Unis) des doctrines et des dispositifs légaux concernant l'héritage depuis la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Dans chacun des trois pays s'est alors constitué un « répertoire normatif» étonnement stable car reconnaissable dans les débats contemporains. On peut parler de «longue durée» des législations de l'héritage sur lesquelles les cadres culturels nationaux pèsent.

Le projet est de contribuer à une théorie des institutions à partir de l'étude d'un domaine important, économiquement et socialement, mais peu balisé par les sociologues. L'analyse est multidimentionelle et outre la culture et les idéologies, prend en compte le changement des conditions socio-économiques et les intérêts des acteurs.

Diese vergleichende Studie (Frankreich, Deutschland, Vereinigte Staaten) analysiert die Lehrsätze und gesetzlichen Vorschriften zur Erbschaft seit dem Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts. In allen drei Ländern ist ein normatives Repertoire mit Langzeitwirkung entstanden, wie zeitgenössische Debatten zeigen. Diese langfristige Erbschaftsgesetzgebung stellt bis heute den nationalen, kulturellen Rahmen.

Das Projekt soll ein Beitrag zur Institutionstheorie sein, aufbauend auf der Untersuchung eines wichtigen Gebietes – wirtschaftlich und sozial », aber noch wenig von den Soziologen untersucht. Die Analyse ist multidimensional und berücksichtigt neben der Kultur und der Ideologie den Wandel der sozialwirtschaftlichen Bedingungen und Interessen der Akteure.

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European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie
  • ISSN: 0003-9756
  • EISSN: 1474-0583
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie
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