[Editor’s Note: In this installment of I•CONnect’s Book Review Series, Joe Tomlinson reviews Peter Cane’s book on Controlling Administrative Power: An Historical Comparison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2016)]
—Joe Tomlinson, Lecturer in Public Law, University of Sheffield School of Law and Associate Fellow, Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics.
The comparative study of law and administration did not keep pace with the recent journey of comparative constitutional studies from ‘a relatively obscure and exotic subject studied by a devoted few’ to ‘one of the more fashionable subjects in contemporary legal scholarship’. This, of course, does not mean that there have not been important studies in the field. There were early landmark works, such as Goodnow’s 1903 study of the administrative law systems of the U.S., England, France, and Germany. Since, administrative law texts that have comparative dimensions would, from time to time, appear. A very well-regarded example is Schwartz and Wade’s 1972 book on Administrative Law in Britain and the United States. Notwithstanding such texts, there has been a lack of a sustained scholarly community devoted to studying the topic. Now that seems to be changing. There is renewed interest in comparative administrative law and the signs of revival are many.
One high-profile indicator is the international Public Law Conference series, first hosted in Cambridge in 2014, and again in 2016. The first conference considered the theme of Process and Substance in Public Law. It was well attended by a diverse crowd of scholars from the common law world. The diversity of the audience and presentations made the affair, somewhat inevitably, drift towards having a comparative tone. Capitalising, the 2016 event—on the Unity of Public Law?—was a more pro-actively comparative affair. The concrete academic output from this series, thus far, has been two multi-jurisdictional works. The less concrete, but even more valuable, gain has been the emergence of a biennial transnational forum for administrative lawyers—a new space where comparativism can breathe naturally. Another important indicator was a successful conference held at Yale University in 2008, organised by Professors Susan Rose-Ackerman and Peter Lindseth. The conference generated an edited volume, Comparative Administrative Law. That volume spawned another conference, in 2016, which led to a second edition of the text. Beyond these two examples, there are many other signs that the field is springing back to life.
It is against this backdrop that Professor Cane’s new book, Controlling Administrative Power: An Historical Comparison, is published.