Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro

Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro

S.J.D. Candidate

Teaching Fellow, Kennedy School of Government

Graduate Fellow, LL.M. Advisor



The Decline of Modern Private Law

The legal theorists of the mid-19th century put forward a theory of private law that has been labeled “classical”. It combined the will theory with legal formalism. The theory was a form of consciousness that rationalized social life and legitimated a vast array of legal and institutional arrangements. It was an answer to the question of “political justice”, as it figures in the work of some prominent contemporary political theorists.

My project has two parts. The first traces the decline of late modern private law, understood as a theory and as an ideology, from its classical period until the current post-realist moment. It describes how the propositions that together constituted classical private law were criticized, revised, and transformed by successive generations of legal theorists — the social jurists, the legal realists, and finally the post-realists — until the whole structure eventually collapsed.

The second part examines the sociological foundations of modern private law theory, explaining its socio-political and socio-psychological function, and supplying its micro-foundations. I argue that as classical private law collapsed, the theorists of political justice migrated from private law to constitutional law.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Intellectual History of Modern Private Law with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School, Overall Faculty Supervisor
  • Jurisprudence: The Nature of Law and of Legal Reasoning with Professor Lewis Sargentich, Harvard Law School
  • Normative Foundations of Welfarism and Efficiency Analysis with Professor Louis Kaplow, Harvard Law School

First Year Reading Lists for the Above Fields

Additional Research Interests

  • Private Law (Torts, Contracts, Property, and Family Law)
  • Legal, Political, and Social Theory
  • Economic Analysis of Private Law
  • Comparative Law
  • European Union Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2007 - Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program 200x-200x 2007
  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, LL.B. 2006

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Kennedy School of Government, 2009-2010 Teaching Fellow
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal, 2008-2010, Visiting Lecturer
  • Harvard Law School, 2009-2010, Graduate Program Fellow, Perspectives Teaching Assistant
  • Harvard Law School, 2009-2010, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Università degli Studi di Perugia, Italy, 2009, Visiting Lecturer
  • Harvard Law School, 2008-2009, Graduate Program Fellow, Writers Workshop TA
  • Harvard Law School, 2007-2008, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Fellow, 2006-2010

Representative Publications

  • Features of Legal Pluralism: Lessons from Angola and Mozambique, in State and Traditional Law in Angola and Mozambique (Armando Marques Guedes and Maria Lopes eds., Almedina: Coimbra 2006).

Additional Information

  • Languages: English (fluent), Portuguese (native), French (basic), Spanish (working knowledge), Italian (working knowledge), German (working knowledge)



Last Updated: Spetember 03, 2009

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