The big question in comparative law today - and one that is of key importance to anyone interested in international law - is whether we are currently witnessing a convergence of national legal systems. This course examines this question, as well as the related problem of American exceptionalism, by exploring key aspects of contemporary Western European legal systems. We will study a range of legal institutions and practices, including such topics as legal education, the role of judges and judging, constitutional courts and judicial review, criminal procedure and punishment, and the rise and regulation of consumer culture. In contrast to the traditional comparative law course, we will also devote substantial time to such pressing public-law questions as racial equality and affirmative action, gender equality and sexual harassment, and church-state relations. After the term begins, students accepted into the course can transfer from section (01) into section (02), which meets the R requirement, with consent of the instructor. Elements used in grading: Class participation and exam or research paper.