Call for Papers: A Jurisprudence of Complexity? Rethinking the Relationship between Law and Society



Event Date: 

09/24/15 to 09/25/15

Location name: 

Law School at Lancaster University


Law School at Lancaster University

A Jurisprudence of Complexity? Rethinking the Relationship between Law and Society

Date: 24 September 2015 Time: 9:00am

Venue: Lancaster University

On 24-25 September 2015, the Law School at Lancaster University will be hosting a conference on the possibilities of developing “A Jurisprudence of Complexity”. The keynote speaker will be JB Ruhl (Vanderbilt Law School, USA), who has written widely on the subject of complexity theory and law. Other participants will include Sionaidh Douglas-Scott (Oxford); Lucy Finchett-Maddock (Sussex); Neville Harris (Manchester); and Paul Cairney (Stirling) as well as Jamie Murray, Tom Webb, and Steven Wheatley (all Lancaster) The conference will also hear from experts in complexity theory in other disciplines including Sylvia Walby (Sociology) and, Robert Geyer (Politics).

 Whilst there is no paradigmatic ‘theory of complexity’, there are a number of insights from complexity that can be applied to Law and which might influence the way in which legal theory addresses the central questions of jurisprudence. These insights relate to issues of the unpredictability of legal system functioning; the idea of the law system as an emergentphenomenon, which is the result of the quality of the interactions between law actors; the ability of law systems to adapt to changes in world society, and the functioning of other law systems;  The importance of context to understanding the law system (without adopting a Darwinist reading of the evolution of the Law System);  The fact that lawyers cannot avoid ethical responsibility for the way the law system functions; and the unclear, contested, and open nature of system boundaries, and the manner in which they interface with society. 

 Drawing on the insights in the literature on the theory and practice of complex adaptive systems, this conference will bring together leading system theory thinkers from law and a number of other disciplines to address the foundational questions of a Complexity Jurisprudence:

(1) How does complexity theory understand “Law”?

(2) How do complexity theorists understand the functioning of Law and how does this influence the idea of Law as a regulatory tool?

(3) What is the ‘value-added’ of an approach from complexity to the study of how law operates (in particular when contrasted with other postmodern and systems approaches).

(4) What does complexity tell us about the academic function of critique and the functioning of sub-discipline discourses (public law, environmental law, international law, etc.)?

Lancaster University now seeks expressions of interests from speakers and discussants in any areas related to the subject of the conference. We welcome applications from postgraduate researchers and scholars at all stages of their career.

 The conference will take place at Lancaster UniversityLancaster University on 24 -25 September 2015. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to Dr Tom Webb (, by 6pm 15 June 2015, and must include the author’s name, affiliation, and full contact information. Decisions regarding inclusion in the workshop program will be sent by 1 July, 2015.

Attendance at the conference is free for speakers. The School regrets that is unable to offer assistance with travel, accommodation or other costs.



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