Great Expectations: Multiple Modernities of Law

by | 10 Sep 2010

Critical Legal Conference
10-12 September, Utrecht 2010

Since 1984, every first weekend in September, the Critical Legal Conference brings together critical and radical legal scholars from all over the world. It has been a phenomenal success despite its modesty. The CLC is also exactly that: a conference. No organisation, presidents and secretaries, members and subscriptions. This conference is a transient community; an inoperative community always to come, lasting for three days every year, without orthodoxies, exclu¬sions or stars and gets down to the business of thinking and being together. In doing so, a variety of critical schools, such as postmodernism, phenomenology, decon¬struction, feminism, post-colonialism, critical race, queer theory, the ethics of otherness, the ontology of plural singularity, and the critique of bio-politics have been pioneered in these conferences, creating new and stronger links between theory and practice. Most conferences have taken place in the UK but we have also been to South Africa, India, Ireland and Scandinavia. This is the first time, the CLC is organised in the Netherlands. It hopes to bring together different schools and approaches to critical legal scholarship at a time when collaboration and solidarity across Europe and the world is imperative.

This year’s theme

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 globalisation and enforced individualisation. Both notions reflect an ever-increasing societal complexity with which we deal in many different ways. 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. Therefore, the conference takes 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 “multiple modernities”. If so, what does this concept pertains to? Does it help us in understanding and criticising 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 requires an attitude of self-criticism, i.e. a reflexive attitude.


The opening address will be given by Prof. Gunther Teubner. Prof Teubner is Professor of Private Law and Legal Sociology, Principal Investigator, Excellence Cluster “The Formation of Normative Orders”, Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main and Centennial Visiting Professor, London School of Economics.


– General theme
– Disciplinarity and methodology
– Carl Schmitt in an age of globalisation and individualisation
– Critical autopoiesis
– Critical legal geographies – law and space
– The Turn to Emotions: Law, Geopolitics, Aesthetics
– Spectres of the social
– Thinking ‘multiple modernities’ with film
– The WWW: great expectations or great disenchantments?
– The critical attitude
– Graduate stream

The abstract of the keynote lecture is listed under “talks”.

Accepted paper proposals in each of the streams are listed under “papers”.

The programme is listed under “CV”.

Contact Information:

Address: Department of Legal Theory
Faculty of Law, University Utrecht
Achter St. Pieter 200
3512 HT  Utrecht

Telephone: + / 7094


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