Napoleonic Code & French Culture

Go Back   Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad > Europe > France Expat Forum for Expats Living in France

France Expat Forum for Expats Living in France Welcome to the France Expat forum. This is the place to meet like minded people who have made France their new home. This forum is ideal for those who have moved to France and those thinking about making France their new home.

Like Tree15Likes

Napoleonic Code & French Culture


Reply
 
Subscribe to this Thread Thread Tools
  #1 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 05:37 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 112
Rep Power: 0
rwjones is on a distinguished road
44 likes received
34 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from usa. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default Napoleonic Code & French Culture

I recently came across an opinion about how the Napoleonic Code differs from English Common Law, and how that affects French culture.

The gist of it is that English Common Law focuses on what is forbidden. If it is not forbidden, then it is allowed, and a person can use his or her imagination or whatever to achieve desired results within the very broad universe of all that is not explicitly forbidden.

Supposedly the Napoleonic Code focuses on what is allowed, and things that are not explicitly allowed are forbidden (or at least not supposed to be done).

Culturally, the argument here is that English Common Law encourages out-of-the box thinking and innovation, while the Napoleonic Code encourages in-the-box thinking and following the rules.

Anyone have any thoughts or observations about the accuracy of this?

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #2 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 06:33 PM
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Pau
Posts: 14,541
Rep Power: 4581
EverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond repute
5523 likes received
9177 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from france. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by rwjones View Post
I recently came across an opinion about how the Napoleonic Code differs from English Common Law, and how that affects French culture.

The gist of it is that English Common Law focuses on what is forbidden. If it is not forbidden, then it is allowed, and a person can use his or her imagination or whatever to achieve desired results within the very broad universe of all that is not explicitly forbidden.

Supposedly the Napoleonic Code focuses on what is allowed, and things that are not explicitly allowed are forbidden (or at least not supposed to be done). This is not the case.

Culturally, the argument here is that English Common Law encourages out-of-the box thinking and innovation, while the Napoleonic Code encourages in-the-box thinking and following the rules.

Anyone have any thoughts or observations about the accuracy of this?
See comment in red.
berkinet likes this.

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #3 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 06:58 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Body in Wales, spirit in Normandy
Posts: 3,023
Rep Power: 268
EuroTrash has a spectacular aura aboutEuroTrash has a spectacular aura aboutEuroTrash has a spectacular aura about
1541 likes received
548 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from wales. Users Flag! Expat in wales.
Default

Seems to me the main difference is that French law is codified and judgements are made by applying the code, whereas UK common law seems to be largely based on precedent and thus is made up as you go along. The Napoleonic code tells you precisely what your obligations are, which isn't the same thing as telling you what you can do. The courts then decide whether or not you have met your obligations. And you have no excuse for not knowing what those obligations are because the codes are accessible to everyone, you can refer to them online. So to me it seems more transparent and precise, and less reliant on clever speechifying to sway a jury and which side of the bed the judge got out of that morning, and I like that. But what do I know about how the law works in either country - next to nothing. Those are just my impressions.

I don't really see what a country's legal system has to do with innovation. France seems innovative enough in areas such as the arts, psychology, science, engineering. Maybe not quite so innovative in thinking up solutions to Brexit... in fact I think the Brexit negotiations demonstrated the huge gap between the UK mindset and the European mindset, with the UK doing out of the box thinking totally oblivious to the basic rules and coming up with random unworkable ideas, and the rest of Europe patiently explaining that there are rules to be respected. Out of the box thinking is OK in context but not always appropriate.

In terms of mindset I agree the French tend to be more disciplined and precise and more aware of the rules, but isn't that a product of the education system not the legal system? And I guess you could say that the legal system and the education system are themselves a product of the French mindset. And so you go round in circles, a nation is what it is. Vive la différence.
DejW and Justina like this.


Last edited by EuroTrash; 22nd November 2019 at 07:00 PM.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
  #4 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 07:02 PM
DejW's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Mountains - Pyrénées Orientales
Posts: 4,647
Rep Power: 1827
DejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond reputeDejW has a reputation beyond repute
1809 likes received
1738 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from england. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

I'm sure you are tecnically correct, dearest EH. However, on a cultural level I agree with Jonesey. I can't tbink of examples at the moment, I'll start thinking.

One example, if a stranger contacts you, they often start with "je me permets..." In English culture you don't need permission!

And another, when I was living with my French wife she sometimes asked Is it permitted? In English...is it illegal?

I'm sure others will come up with good examples.

DejW

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #5 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 07:18 PM
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Body in Wales, spirit in Normandy
Posts: 3,023
Rep Power: 268
EuroTrash has a spectacular aura aboutEuroTrash has a spectacular aura aboutEuroTrash has a spectacular aura about
1541 likes received
548 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from wales. Users Flag! Expat in wales.
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by DejW View Post
One example, if a stranger contacts you, they often start with "je me permets..." In English culture you don't need permission!
I dunno either DejW...
Not wishing to contradict you, but in English culture won't a polite person say "May I...?" Whereas in French culture you give yourself permission, you don't have to ask for somebody else's permission!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DejW View Post
And another, when I was living with my French wife she sometimes asked Is it permitted? In English...is it illegal?
Hmm... Is smoking permitted? Is smoking illegal? It means different doesn't it?

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #6 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 07:19 PM
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Pau
Posts: 14,541
Rep Power: 4581
EverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond reputeEverHopeful has a reputation beyond repute
5523 likes received
9177 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from france. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by DejW View Post
I'm sure you are tecnically correct, dearest EH. However, on a cultural level I agree with Jonesey. I can't tbink of examples at the moment, I'll start thinking.

One example, if a stranger contacts you, they often start with "je me permets..." In English culture you don't need permission!

And another, when I was living with my French wife she sometimes asked Is it permitted? In English...is it illegal?

I'm sure others will come up with good examples.

DejW
I think I need you to translate that. I don't see what etiquette has to do with the law or innovation.

However the article in the OP's thread is based on a false premise.

As for innovation, there is this, though it is from 2015, https://www.businessfrance.fr/en/dis...engths-talents


Last edited by EverHopeful; 22nd November 2019 at 07:20 PM. Reason: clarification
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #7 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 09:44 PM
Bevdeforges's Avatar
Super Moderator
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: deepest, darkest Essonne
Posts: 46,156
Rep Power: 23272
Bevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond repute
9649 likes received
1287 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from usa. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

I've seen those references to the various legal systems categorized into those where "all that is not forbidden is permitted" vs. those where "all that is not permitted is forbidden." I always forget which is the "anglo-saxon system" and which is the French system with its Napoleonic Code.

But as EuroTrash was saying, I'm not sure how much effect this all has on "innovation." Assuming that French law is the one that defines what is permitted, I still find the French remarkably innovative about getting over, under, around and through the legalities of life here in France. <g>

But the laws and the "philosophy" of the law do have an effect on the culture of a society. I've noticed this when visiting back in the US - I'm much more inclined to get around the laws in a practical sense than I used to be when I lived in the US.

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #8 (permalink)  
Old 22nd November 2019, 10:08 PM
Steve Foley's Avatar
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Blagnac
Posts: 815
Rep Power: 0
Steve Foley is on a distinguished road
204 likes received
234 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from scotland. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

I greatly prefer a Codified Legal System as in France which is not precedent ridden and I dislike Common Law. Also here we have a proper written Constitution not a rag bag of very old Laws such as Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights etc, etc.

Indeed although not the major reason those French differences in Law and Constititution played a significant part in my taking the option of moving here when the UK Branch of my Multinational Employer was closed by the Parent Company in a Rationalisation/Optimisation exercise and I had the chance to come to France with continuity of employment and grade or take a reasonably good lieu of notice and redundancy package instead and remain in the UK where I would have been very unlikely to get as well paid a job at my then age and my severance payments plus my savings would only have lasted me for about two years.


Last edited by Steve Foley; 22nd November 2019 at 10:11 PM.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #9 (permalink)  
Old 23rd November 2019, 07:52 AM
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2018
Location: Paris, France
Posts: 112
Rep Power: 0
rwjones is on a distinguished road
44 likes received
34 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from usa. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bevdeforges View Post
I've seen those references to the various legal systems categorized into those where "all that is not forbidden is permitted" vs. those where "all that is not permitted is forbidden." I always forget which is the "anglo-saxon system" and which is the French system with its Napoleonic Code.
These were exactly the expressions I stumbled across. And supposedly the former is associated with English Common Law, and the latter with the Napoleonic Code.

But I've Googled quite a bit on variations of "common law vs napoleonic code" and cannot find anything that makes that same association. The closest I can find is that Common Law (in Anglo Saxon countries) is based on precedent, whereas the Napoleonic Code is not.

So if I understand it correctly, in a country that has English Common Law as its base, once a law has been tested in court and a precedent set through the court's interpretation, it is now clear(er) what the law means.

Under the Napoleonic Code, however, precedent does not matter, and a law can be interpreted again and again -- with different outcomes -- in different courts and under different judges.

If that be true, I can see where the Napoleonic Code might produce a more cautious approach to the law, and where Common Law might produce a more free-wheeling approach.

But I haven't found anything that logically leads to saying that under Common Law "all that is not forbidden is permitted" and that under the Napoleonic Code "all that is not permitted is forbidden."

I'm really curious where that interpretation came from...

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #10 (permalink)  
Old 23rd November 2019, 08:35 AM
Bevdeforges's Avatar
Super Moderator
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: deepest, darkest Essonne
Posts: 46,156
Rep Power: 23272
Bevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond reputeBevdeforges has a reputation beyond repute
9649 likes received
1287 likes given

Users Flag! Originally from usa. Users Flag! Expat in france.
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by rwjones View Post
So if I understand it correctly, in a country that has English Common Law as its base, once a law has been tested in court and a precedent set through the court's interpretation, it is now clear(er) what the law means.

Under the Napoleonic Code, however, precedent does not matter, and a law can be interpreted again and again -- with different outcomes -- in different courts and under different judges.

If that be true, I can see where the Napoleonic Code might produce a more cautious approach to the law, and where Common Law might produce a more free-wheeling approach.

But I haven't found anything that logically leads to saying that under Common Law "all that is not forbidden is permitted" and that under the Napoleonic Code "all that is not permitted is forbidden."

I'm really curious where that interpretation came from...
I almost think it could be kind of the opposite of your interpretation. (Maybe I've been living in Europe too long. <g>)

In the Anglo-Saxon countries, the law is always evolving, thanks to precedent and the many interpretations. In big trials (think Supreme Court in the US) they are always trying to get to the root of "what the Founding Fathers' intention was" when they passed a given law. Just look at the long-running attempts to "interpret" the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution (i.e. the one about guns). Especially the bit about "a well-regulated militia."

In France, the law is the law as written, and certainly in the few legal cases I've watched from the periphery, it seems that there is far less concern about "testimony" or trying to get inside the head of either the "perp" or the "victim" or even the lawmakers. The lawyers here seem to mostly exchange memos citing various laws that appear to countermand the law in question in the original complaint. (Though I will say that there is much less nitpicking of individual words and phrases in the law, like you would get in the States.)

Then, there is the anomaly of Louisiana law in the US, which is more or less based on Napoleonic Code. But in any event, there is a difference in attitude toward the law between the two cultures. The forbidden-allowed thing may not be the best way to characterize it, but the difference in attitude is very real and takes a bit of getting used to.

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Reply


Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:
Location
Where you live
Expat From Country
Please select the country you originate from. This will appear as a flag when you make posts on the site.
Expat To Country
Please select the country you have either moved to or want to relocate to. This will be presented on the site when you make posts.

Log-in


Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


FORUM PARTNERS

ExpatForum.com is owned and operated by VerticalScope Inc.

Retiring Overseas Guides | Moving Overseas Guides | Cost of Living | Health Care Guides


All times are GMT. The time now is 08:43 AM.


Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2019 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.