Conference Announcements



Thu, 13 Sep 2018 – Sat, 15 Sep 2018

Basel 2018: Abolishing the law?

The fourth conference of German-language research on law and society addresses diverse trends whose implications are tantamount to abolishing the legal order and/or rights.

Populist authoritarian movements and regimes exert pressure on the institutions of the democratic rule of law. In the evolving “illiberal democracies,” rights are being restricted and constitutional review is being called into question so as to help the will of the people assert itself. Physical and legal barriers aim at preventing people who are fleeing armed conflicts and other dangers from having access to rights. The logic of the state of exception and, with it, the expansion of the state of emergency and special rights, allow deviations from and interruptions of fundamental norms and principles, which grant the executive further powers. The informational and biotechnological transformation of society radically challenge the possibility of law. On the one hand, according to a widespread diagnosis of contemporary society, human decisions and the processes for forming opinions are increasingly guided by digital algorithms that defy legal control (big data). On the other hand, the law is threatened by the loss of the subject that accompanies the new possibilities of manipulating the human genome (transhumanism). In the context of the vision of a digital and post-human society, is rights-oriented law anachronistic? The marginalization of state-based law is accompanied, moreover, by an expansion of private regulation. State control often limits itself to procedural rather than substantive matters, for example, when laws prescribe how societal actors should enter into commitments. In international treaties, arbitration tribunals that lack democratic legitimacy are proliferating as binding dispute-resolution fora“, whose decisions can no longer be scrutinized by national courts ('soft law, hard effects'. In family law, construction law, and criminal law, mediation is increasingly replacing traditional trials for settling conflicts. And how should endeavours to reconceptualise entire fields of law in this context – such as demands to repeal inheritance law or reform family law – be analysed and evaluated? The empirical phenomena of crisis in law correspond to a new interest in radical theories of legal critique. The spectrum of theories stretches from neo-materialist criticism of law to updates of Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberalism and to critical systems-theoretical demands to reorient law from individual rights towards protecting collective structures of systems differentiation.

How can these developing trends be appropriately described sociologically? And how are they to be evaluated? Are we observing the abolition of the law, a regressive trend in the differentiation of law, morality, and politics, or merely a transformation in the form and content of the law? How do the theoretical visions of an emancipatory liberation from the form of the law relate to the empirically observable trends towards marginalising the legal management of conflicts?

Scholars and researchers from all disciplines are invited to present and discuss the empirical results and theoretical perspectives of their research in the context of this general theme. The conference is divided into multiple thematic tracks. In principle, any topic with an interdisciplinary relation to law can be submitted to either a thematically suitable track, or to the track ‘General Papers’. Other things being equal, papers whose content relates to the conference theme have a better chance of being accepted. We invite the immediate submission of proposals for papers or entire panels/sessions (with up to four papers). We particularly welcome panels with an international or comparative focus and/or composition. In addition, we are open to alternative formats in all tracks, such as book presentations, ‘author meets critics’, roundtables, ‘fishbowls’ with short statements by researchers on a theme from the perspective of their work, interviews or short discussions with guests (either moderated or as a ‘hot seat’), film screenings, or artistic interventions.

Proposals (abstracts should not exceed 1500 characters). The deadline for proposals is 28 February 2018


Netzwerk Recht und Gesellschaft
Conference Website:
University of Basel

 Petersplatz 1, 4001
Basel, Basel

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