• adversarial legalism;
  • Germany;
  • industrial relations;
  • law;
  • United States


The US has a distinctive legal style, which Robert Kagan has called “adversarial legalism.” It is marked by a pattern of political decisionmaking and conflict resolution in which the courtrooms and the law are systematically exploited as political arenas for making and implementing political settlements and policy outlines. In this article it is argued that a “German way” of adversarial legalism is about to emerge in the German industrial relations system. Economic liberalization, the fragmentation and decentralization of lawmaking authority in the political sphere, and the common-law-like nature of German labor law have contributed to the appearance of a judicialized pattern of governance. Nonetheless, Germany is not converging on the “American way of law” and major differences are expected to persist in the years to come.