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Different strands of recent legal scholarship in Europe and beyond take law as constitutive for economic modes of production and reject the idea of ‘the market’ following a predetermined trajectory to which law is (mostly) external. Such works come with diverse theoretical and political affinities and engage with a wide range of fields of application. They share however the premise that legal provisions, entitlements and institutions matter in bringing about and stabilizing socio- economic transformation. Relatedly, it becomes apparent that law itself is not a stable category, but highly dynamic and contextual in its form and place in society.

Event details of The Transformative Law of Political Economy in Europe: Mobilizing Legal Institutional Imagination
Start date 27 January 2022
End date 28 January 2022
Time 10:30
Organised by Klaas Eller (UvA) , Poul F. Kjaer (Copenhagen Business School) , Anna Beckers (Maastricht University)

The conference proposes to zoom in on those legal institutions which are the central building- blocks of markets and to retrace how these institutions have evolved through different modes of economic organization and settings of political economy. Institutions like ‘contract’, ‘property’ and ‘corporation’ all carry changing imprints of political economy. They are not monolithic but exist in plural forms and designs. Think only of contract: Regarded as the ‘legal side of the market economy’ by Max Weber, contract has proven highly adaptive to new economic models, from global supply chains to the sharing economy. At the same time, contract provides the legal infrastructure to many non-economic forms of social interaction and has adjusted to such contexts. The corporation and its legal personhood have a similarly long trajectory of adaption. The history of the corporation ranges from an early imperialist treatment that holds the corporation close to state power and expansion to its treatment as simply another integral part of the market, most prominently evidenced in the nexus of contract understanding. And still today, the corporation, its purpose and its links to the socio-economic context remain a shifting ground with ideas of sustainability and human rights becoming integrated and with a debate on corporate responsibility for global supply chains somewhat dissolving the idea of clear-cut boundaries between the company and the contracts it maintains.

Accounting for the whole spectrum of institutional design is here meant to untap our ‘institutional imagination’ (R. Unger) of how these institutions could be remodeled to face pressing contemporary challenges, e.g. of sustainability and social justice. Genealogical perspectives on individual legal institutions allow to identify patterns and modes of adjustments in the socio- economic imaginaries which inform legal institutions. What is, for instance, the role of legislators, judges, or professional practices in updating such imaginaries? How have processes of Europeanization and constitutionalization left their mark on the basic institutions of private law? What types of legal institutions are presupposed by current EU policies such as the ‘European strategy for data’ or the ‘Green New Deal’? Is the study of single legal institutions, reflective somehow of a related disciplinary division within law, even a tenable approach given the ever more scattered nature of laws and regulations? Or, quite the contrary, can linking these growingly specialized legal regimes back to the underlying basic legal institutions allow to form a conceptual framework that can make sense of dispersed legal developments?