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Multiple Legalities. Conflict and Entanglement in the Global Legal Order

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Multiplicity, it is now widely agreed, is a condition of the legal order beyond the state. Whether expressed in the language of regime complexity, fragmentation or (constitutional) pluralism, observers in both transnational law and international law have come to converge on the importance of going beyond a simple, unitary frame to capture the relations of different legalities in the global order. This move “beyond fragmentation” acknowledges that law beyond the state is no hierarchically ordered system, and that multiple legal orders might overlap, intersect and enmesh as a matter of fact. This is not limited to horizontal enmeshment of different regimes in the international legal sphere, but also extends to vertical overlaps and entanglement between domestic legal order(s) and the international legal sphere(s), cutting across the traditional dichotomy of domestic v. international law as much as putting into question a clear-cut distinction between public and private law dimensions.

Yet how exactly these different legalities interact and what kind of law emerges from this interaction is still far from understood. Contestation also reigns on the normative assessment of the new constellation: while fragmentation has been seen as a threat to the unity of international law by some, others have emphasized the opportunities for open contestation that legal pluralism offers. Entangled legalities beyond the state also pose new challenges to jurisprudence, as they question the paradigmatic character that state law has long occupied in this field.

The two-day conference aims at taking stock of, and going beyond, the debate over the past years. It asks: how do actors deal with conflicts and inconsistencies between different norms and layers of law? How do they construe the relations, and how are the conflicts processed – do conflicts persist or do they lead to adjustment and entanglement over time? To what extent are these normative relations framed as explicitly ‘legal’, and how? Is this multiplicity an entirely new phenomenon, or are there historical analogues? And what does this multiplicity mean for our understanding of ‘law’, ‘legal system’, and ‘legal order’? The law that arises out of multiplicity differs from the ideal type of modern law in its forms and institutions. Does this have implications for legal theory? The conference seeks to understand its dynamics as well as the (new) theoretical frames we need to capture it by bringing together scholars working in both public and private international law and transnational law, jurisprudence and legal philosophy, history and sociology of law.

The conference is organized by the Humboldt University, Berlin, and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, as part of the research group on Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order (www.osaic.eu).


Preliminary programme


The conference will be live-streamed on Verfassungsblog