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Ugo Mattei - UC Hastings College of the Law. San Francisco, CA, US

Ugo Mattei Ugo Mattei

Distinguished Professor of Law and Alfred and Hanna Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law | UC Hastings College of the Law

San Francisco, CA, UNITED STATES

Contacts: matteiu@uchastings.edu / 415-565-4646 / Office 623-200


Professor Ugo Mattei attended Law School of the University of Torino, J.D. (1983); UC Berkeley School of Law, LL.M., Fulbright Fellow (1989); and the London School of Economics Faculté Internationale de Droit Comparé, Strasbourg. He has been a visiting scholar at Yale Law School and the University of Cambridge (Trinity College and Wolfson College), and a visiting professor at Oslo, Berkeley, Montpellier, and Macau.

In 1985 he joined the law school of the University of Trento as an assistant professor and he received tenure as a full professor in 1990. In 1992 he was appointed as a professor in the Faculte' Internationale de Droit Compare' (Strasbourg), where he served for four years. In 1994 he was appointed to the Hastings faculty as the first holder of the Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law, succeeding R.B. Schlesinger in teaching Comparative Law. He also teaches Political Economy of Law. In 1997 he accepted a call from the University of Turin, Faculty of Law to succeed the famous Italian scholar Rodolfo Sacco as the Chair of Civil Law.

He is a full member of the International Academy of Comparative Law, a Fellow at the European Law Institute, served as a member of the Executive Editorial Board of the American Journal of Comparative Law, is a founding editor of Global Jurist, a general editor to the Common Core of European Private Law since its beginning in 1993, and serves as the Academic Coordinator of the International University College of Turin.

He serves advisory roles in many academic institutions including the Friburg Institute of Comparative Law, the Austrian and the Romanian Societies of Comparative Law and the Institute of Law, Economics and Finances at Copenhagen Business School. He recently masterminded, as lawyer and an activist, the Italian campaign against the privatization of water, which was successfully completed in June 2011 with a national referendum in which more than 27 million Italians voted to endorse Professor Mattei’s scheme to recognize water as a common.

Professor Mattei's work is highly interdisciplinary. He has published eighteen books and more than one hundred other publications in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Ukrainian. His most recent book, published in Italian, a manifesto for the commons, providing the theoretical basis for the current wave of resistance against neoliberalism in Italy, has reached the eighth edition in just six months.




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Areas of Expertise (5)

European Community Law

African Law

Anthropological and Ecological Approaches to Law

Comparative Law

Economics and the Law

Accomplishments (1)

Activist Work (professional)


Successfully masterminded, as lawyer and an activist, the Italian campaign against the privatization of water, which was completed in June 2011 with a national referendum in which more than 27 million Italians voted to endorse Professor Mattei’s scheme to recognize water as a common.

Education (2)

University of California at Berkeley, School of Law: LL.M., Law 1989

Fulbright Fellow.

Law School of the University of Torino: J.D., Law 1983

Affiliations (5)

  • International Academy of Comparative Law : Member
  • European Law Institute : Fellow
  • Global Jurist (Journal) : Founding Editor
  • Common Core of European Private Law (Journal) : General Editor
  • International University College of Turin : Academic Coordinator

Languages (2)

  • Italian
  • English

Media Appearances (4)

Why Podemos Or Syriza Scenarios Won't Happen In Italy

WorldCrunch  online


Ugo Mattei, an Italian law professor, says the Podemos model is based on a popular leadership focused on issues that affect people's lives. Ana Colau, Podeomos-backed winner of Barcelona mayoral vote, built her political campaign on the battle against housing evictions. "She is now supported by a vast and modern intelligentsia," explains Mattei. "In Italy, after 2011, the question remained in the hands of a self-referential nomenclature."...

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How Italians are keeping priceless artefacts out of private hands

New Statesman  online


The occupation at Teatro Valle has tried to take this a step further. A few weeks after they first occupied the theatre, the activists invited the distinguished law professor Ugo Mattei to help them draw up documents that would give legal protection to their work – allowing them to continue running the theatre collectively. In 2007, Mattei had been a member of a commission of legal experts and jurists appointed by the government to make adjustments to Italian property law. They recommended a big change: to introduce a third category of property, neither public nor private, but “common”. When I contacted him by email, Mattei explained it was “based on access to and diffusion of power”; a challenge to the idea that the market knows best...

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The commons: beyond the market vs. state dilemma

openDemocracy  online


The ‘tragedy of the commons’, as Ugo Mattei has recently pointed out, throws into relief two contradictory positions held today. Hegemonic representation, essentially founded on social Darwinism, holds up competition, conflict and emulation as the essential triad of reality. That conception grew out of a ‘modernisation of the progress’ of market forces that leant on public political institutions. This is how communal goods and communal life were atomised, colonised and brought to an end. At the other extreme, we have a holistic and ecological view of the world, based on relationships of reciprocity, cooperation and community...

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After 20-year battle, protests over Italian high-speed train derail

The Christian Science Monitor  online


“There hasn’t been a parliament’s vote about TAV,” says Ugo Mattei, a professor of international and comparative law at the University of California in San Francisco. “There only is a law that dates back to 2001 that states the rules for every great infrastructure project to be realized between 2002 and 2013," leaving much leeway for politicians...

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Selected Articles (5)

Diapositives versus Movies – The Inner Dynamics of the Law and Its Comparative Account

The Cambridge Companion to Comparative Law


The paper is the introduction to the Cambridge Companion to Comparative Law. The book (as well as its introduction) goes through the variety of possible nuances of comparative law. Acknowledging that diverse working comparative methods can all be useful tools to the understanding of the legal phenomena, this preface sets up two provisos. One is that any method one relies on should enable the researcher to stay close to what the law is, to how the law lives in the different settings – regardless of what one would like (i.e. regardless of what any kind of personal and cultural bias may expect) the law to be. The second proviso is that academically acceptable comparisons cannot be performed by anybody. There is indeed a widespread sense that comparison is not a professional endeavor per se, but just a method or an approach that, no matter how superficially, any legal scholar can adopt. This attitude is culturally naïve and scientifically noxious.

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The Evil Technology Hypothesis: A Deep Ecological Reading of International Law

Cardozo Law Review de Novo


This short paper advances the hypothesis that international law, far from being a purely neutral “indeterminate” technology that can lend itself to both good and bad uses, might actually be structurally biased to produce exploitative outcomes. This hypothesis is presented through several steps. The first part presents Martti Koskenniemi’s indeterminacy thesis, followed by Anthony Anghie’s depiction of international law as a technology. The possibility of an inherent bias of technology, such that it will lend itself to exploitative uses, even with the best of intentions, is then introduced in Section III, using the writing of radical ecological thinkers Ran Prieur and Derrick Jensen. This theory is then discussed specifically in relation to international law in Section IV.

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Comparative International Law

Brooklyn Journal of International Law


This Article examines the emerging field of study called "comparative international law," first generally and then by specific examination into historical comparative international law traditions. We map out historical precedents of comparative international law to find and to create patterns, which is important to render future CIL projects coherent and relevant to policymakers. Historical analysis also unlocks what is both common and distinctive to the fields of comparative and international law, respectively. This, in turn, allows us to conceptualize their interaction and to warn of several likely or unintended dimensions (pitfalls) for the emerging field of CIL: (1) "amateurism" and "legal corporeology" (Riles) involving unsophisticated sampling of traditional comparative law forms and crude comparisons of national traditions and actors; (2) failure to understand micro-mechanics of legal transplants and norm diffusion (Sacco), which in turn leads to (3) failure to appreciate micro-level local legal customs, values and interests; (4) likely failure to examine the institutional dimensions in the "home" country/institution/organization, which is often the ‘control variable’ against which foreign legal systems are assessed. This Article is divided into three parts. Section one unpacks the general trajectory of the field of comparative international law, proposing the Interwar period (1919-1939) as a critical framework for understanding the first generation of CIL, and the post-WWII Bretton Woods (and subsequent "crisis" periods) as important moments of political contestation within the respective disciplines. Section two asks whether these critical moments may imbue both internationalists and comparativists with shared theoretical assumptions or outlooks: the notion that they are involved in progressive scholarly endeavors; pervasive blindness to the distributive outcomes of their normative policy recommendations; recurring failure to take stock of failure; inability to engage creatively with the objects of their study. Section three, thus, explores the dynamic political dimensions of likely CIL projects, including potential conflicts. These conflicts may form the basis for a creative political space within the legal academy. Or, and more likely, they will continue to fractionalize the respective disciplines, significantly diffusing the emancipatory potential of both.

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The Common Core Approach to the European Private Law

Columbia Journal of European Law


This paper discusses the aim, method, and organization of ‘The Common Core of European Private Law’ project, a scholarly initiative launched by the authors in 1994, and that at the moment this paper was written involved one hundred (and now more than two hundred) scholars, mostly from Europe and the United States. Part I describes both the immediate and the long-term goals of the Project. Part II discusses the methodological evolution that has taken place from Schlesinger's Cornell Project to the Common Core work, and tackles the main differences between the Common Core approach and other "integrative" projects taking place in Europe. Part III deals with the Project's framework, structure, and organization.

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Making the Other Path Efficient: Economic Analysis and Tort Law in Less Developed Countries

The Law and Economics of Development


The aim of this paper is to advance our understanding of whether and to what extent Law & Economics has a future in addressing, both from a positive and from a normative point of view, legal systems which are outside the Western legal tradition. The analysis proceeds in the following way: Part One focuses on general issues of Comparative Law & Economics. We try to explain from an economic perspective what characteristics make Western law homogeneous in order to have a clear picture of which legal systems we are considering. Part Two discusses some of the assumptions of Law & Economics which may limit the possibility of a successful transplantation of this method outside the West. Part Three takes environmental tort law in several African and Latin American countries as an application of Law & Economics outside of the Western legal tradition. Part Four offers some general conclusions regarding the application of Law & Economics to legal analysis of so-called less developed countries.

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