Friday, 23 November: Language and Boundaries

PILAGG WILL HOST ITS THIRD EVENT OF THE 2018-2019 ACADEMIC YEAR WITH PROFESSORS Ruth sefton-green, KERRY RITTICH, and robert wai on THE TOPIC OF “Law’s language, law’s Boundaries: an INterdisciplinary approach”

23 Nov / 12:30 – 14:30

Room 410 T – Meeting Room

Sciences Po Law School, 13 rue de l’université, 75007 Paris

FOR ABSTRACTS OF THE TOPICS OF DISCUSSION:

Ruth Sefton-Green (University Paris I Sorbonne) 

Language as a means of closing and opening doors in law

The relationship and mutual influence between law and language is the driving force behind my enquiry. Language affects law from various perspectives. First, language has been, and no doubt still is, exploited by jurists to keep language within the legal community. It follows that a legal language, or a language of the law, can be used as a deliberate barrier to reserve the law to an elite, as well as to mark out cultural and national boundaries. For instance, the invention of the English common law was constructed, somewhat paradoxically, thanks to the French language. Second, it is often suggested that language creates barriers to understanding other legal systems. To what extent does the structure of a language affect the structure of law? Can we learn law in the ‘wrong’ language? Can linguistic incompetence, i.e. not knowing the language, preclude us from understanding another law? Overriding theories of untranslatability, I will explore the idea that comparative law is an eye-opener and an opportunity to cross thresholds, in order to move beyond fixed or conventional understandings and create new ones through a meta-language.

Kerry Rittich (University of Toronto)

Then and Now – Informal Work through the Lens of Colonial Labour Market Governance

Informal work has always been marginal to the discipline of labour law, despite the fact that at a global level it encompasses most of the work actually performed. A confluence of events – among them, the transnationalization of production, the rise of precarious, contractualized forms of work, and the assault on organized labour – has put the discipline in crisis and its conventional focus on the employment relationship in question. At the same time, labour market reforms and other governance norms at the national, international and transnational levels are intensifying the crises of work and exacerbating economic inequality.

As the boundaries of the field are being questioned and redrawn, it can be revealing to trace the continuities between contemporary imperatives to formalize informal labour and enhance productivity at work and colonial endeavours to create a wage labour force habituated to market norms, demands and conditions. What narratives of progress undergird these endeavours? How are legal technologies such as contractual forms employed to effect the transition to modernity? How are freedom and coercion for workers imagined in these contractual relationships, especially in the context of (countervailing) demands to ensure continuous increases in productivity? What do colonial labour market histories and governance projects suggest about the ensuing consequences for efficiency and distributive justice, economic growth and progress in human welfare and social cohesion?

Robert Wai (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)

Liberal and Post-Liberal Internationalist Policy Discourses in Transnational Economic Law

How are the boundaries of territory and jurisdiction constituted through the language of law? One focus in my research has been the way in which this is resolved through the deployment of policy discourses in fields of transnational economic law, including private international law, international trade law, and international investment law. In particular, the harnessing and reception of interdisciplinary insights into law through the reasoning/justification of legal decision-makers, including legislators, judges/arbitrators, and public officials, involves a selective reception of the insights from the extralegal disciplines such as economics, international relations, and ethics. I have earlier argued that the supportive reception during the 1990s of globalization into many areas of law, most strikingly in neoliberal reform associated with the Washington Consensus, could be understood as being justified based on a series of liberal internationalist policy analytics taken from economics, international relations, and ethics. The slogan “commerce, cooperation, cosmopolitanism” could summarize this stage. Since then, the liberal internationalist policy consensus has clearly become more contested. What is the nature of interdisciplinary policy discourse now in transnational economic law, and what follows from the change for the legal language of territory and jurisdiction?

IMPORTANT:
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