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Ted Sichelman & Henry E. Smith, A Network Model of Legal Relations, 382 Phil. Transactions Royal Soc'y A (2024).

Abstract: From at least the early twentieth century, legal scholars have recognized that rights and other legal relations inhere between individual legal actors, forming a vast and complex social network. Yet, no legal scholar has used the mathematical machinery of network theory to formalize these relationships. Here, we propose the first such approach by modelling a rudimentary, static set of real property relations using network theory. Then, we apply our toy model to measure the level of modularity—essentially, the community structure—among aggregations of these real property relations and associated actors. In so doing, we show that even for a very basic set of relations and actors, law may employ modular structures to manage complexity. Property, torts, contracts, intellectual property, and other areas of the law arguably reduce information costs in similar, quantifiable ways by chopping up the world of interactions between parties into manageable modules that are semi-autonomous. We also posit that our network science approach to jurisprudential issues can be adapted to quantify many other important aspects of legal systems. This article is part of the theme issue 'A complexity science approach to law and governance'.