Ultrecht University Critical Legal Conference: “Great Expectations” Multiple Modernities of Law

Date(s) of Conference:

September 10 – 12, 2010


Utrecht University
Achter St. Pieter 200
3512 HT  Utrecht


Social developments demand, now more than ever, a critical perspective on law and legal scholarship. These developments relate to the financial and economic crisis, the conti­nuing humanitarian wars, the rising intolerance towards others and the perceived threat they pose. They can be captured in the notions of multidimensio­nal globalization and enforced individualization. The former pertains to global society, trans­cending the nation-state, whereas the latter pertains to a wide range of decisions one must make about many aspects of individual life. Both notions contri­bute to and reflect an ever-increasing societal complexity with which we deal in many different ways and law is one of these ways. Fundamental is how law is used to deal with complexity. The ongoing discussion about human rights is illustrative in this regard.

A critical legal perspective is required to expose “normative abuse” of law. The main theme of this conference is to re-affirm, in our global age, this critical pers­pective on law and its relationship with politics. Indeed, the conference re-affirms the critical political condition we are in as scholars.

To conceptualize this condition is to take issue with the concept of moder­nity. The question is whether to speak of a single modernity (be it a reflexive moderni­ty, a liquid modernity, a second modernity, a post-modernity, etc.) or whether we should consider the possibility of what Eisenstadt terms “multiple modernities”. If so, what does this concept pertains to? Does it help us in understanding and criti­cizing modern law and legal scholarship and their manifestations in different legal systems? Furthermore, does it help us in understanding and dealing with (global) contemporary problems from the perspective of human rights as a manifestation of global law, penetrating legal systems around the world? A critical attitude, hence, is not merely directed at others, as in submitting other modernities (and their legal systems) to the test of Western modernity and law.  Rather, it also, or perhaps, in particular, expects an attitude of self-criticism, i.e. a reflexive attitu­de. The main theme touches, in this way, on many different issues pertaining to law and society, comparative legal studies, law and culture, concepts of positive law, the administration of law and its organization. It also raises questions of methodology as it crosses disciplinary boundaries.

Call for Papers:

  • The deadline for submitting a paper proposal is May 21, 2010
  • The deadline for submitting a stream proposal is March 26, 2010
  • Paper proposals in respect of one of the subthemes under a stream can be sent directly to the stream convenor and before the deadline set by the convenor

Contact Information:

Department of Legal Theory
Faculty of Law, University Utrecht
Achter St. Pieter 200
3512 HT  Utrecht
The Netherlands
+ / 7094



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