In his recent work on private law, John Gardner argues that private law has conservative leanings, which explain its central features. He argues that private law is designed to protect or promote the security interests of victims or likely victims of legal wrongs. Gardner appeals to the thinly conservative value of preserving the lives that people already have to justify this conception. This chapter expresses doubts about whether this thin version of conservativism plays a characteristic or organising role in private law. Instead, it is argued that a thicker or more deeply conservative outlook according to which the purpose of private law is the preservation of social virtue, or our existing forms of civility, reveals much more about private law. It is the value of these social relations rather than security severally considered which private law refuses to let go.
Saprai, Prince, Never Let Me Go: Private Law and the Conservative Impulse (June 24, 2022) in Michelle Madden Dempsey and François Tanguay-Renaud (eds), From Morality to Law and Back Again: Liber Amicorum for John Gardner (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), Faculty of Laws University College London Law Research Paper No 6/2022.