About the Project

The Rethinking Unjust Enrichment Project

The Rethinking Unjust Enrichment project aims to collect a contrary range of views which question the dominant position of unjust enrichment. These essays are a collective expression of doubt. The contributions will cast doubt on the various parameters of the unjust enrichment movement from an analytical standpoint representing the following four interrelated perspectives: (1) historical; (2) sociological; (3) doctrinal; and (4) conceptual. In many ways, these parameters follow the trajectory of the intellectual development of unjust enrichment. The four-limb structure of Rethinking Unjust Enrichment enables us to understand the current problems of unjust enrichment on the deepest levels of its history, sociological forces, doctrinal fallacies and normative deficiencies. This treatment of the subject will provide the basis for a comprehensive reform across jurisdictions. 

The significance of Rethinking Unjust Enrichment can hardly be overstated. Private law provides the legal backbone for governing interpersonal interactions. It is relevant to almost every social setting. Private individuals, commercial actors and business organisations sell and purchase goods, are involved in financial transactions, commit negligent actions, own and manage property for others and so on. If one says that the law of unjust enrichment represents an independent private law category that co-exists with the traditional private law categories of contract, property and tort, this explains the  significance of this project. Introducing a new category, or even a new organising principle, into private law means that many interpersonal interactions could be affected by unjust enrichment and potentially trigger a legal response. This suggest that private law could not be properly understood and coherently function without grasping the nature and operative mechanics of the unjust enrichment principle.  

Rethinking Unjust Enrichment is timely and important for both sceptics and supporters of the unjust enrichment movement. It is valuable for the supporters as collects together for the first time a comprehensive account of some of the main criticism of the doctrine by the leading sceptics. Whilst the unjust enrichment movement celebrates the introduction of the principle into the UK’s (and other countries’) jurisprudence, Rethinking Unjust Enrichment will require supporters to reconsider their argument or at least to refine it. In contrast to the massive bourgeoning literature favouring unjust enrichment, the project does not take the principle for granted and challenges it in the most comprehensive, structural and multi-layered way. 

As for the sceptics, Rethinking Unjust Enrichment is important because for the first time it consolidates their voices. The project goes far beyond the UK and encompasses sceptical voices from the US, Australia, Canada, China, Singapore, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South America. Furthermore, also for the first time, the perspective is inherently cross-disciplinary: it embraces historical, sociological, doctrinal and conceptual angles. It is believed that these multi-layered, cross-disciplinary (and yet closely interrelated) insights provide the most adequate way to critically grasp the nature of the unjust enrichment movement and to carefully contemplate the way forward. This point applies to all systems: those that adopted the organising principle, those that did not, and those that are yet to decisively commit.

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