Politics & Private Law (‘Politiek Privaatrecht’)

Each year at the Private Law Department of Erasmus School of Law (Rotterdam, NL) we encourage our most talented LLM students to do something extraordinary: we invite them to write their LLM theses by means of a chapter in an edited volume. For each volume a particular theme is chosen and the selected students are challenged to make their mark within that theme by addressing some topical issue, delving deep into newly explored terrain and coming up with exciting and innovative solutions to pressing private law problems. And all this within the bounds of a 6000-word chapter!

Our collected LLM thesis essays are increasingly successful. Up to date, we published 7 such annual volumes. Scholarly citation rates are on the rise and currently stand at an average of 5,5 per book.

This year’s edited volume brings together essays on ‘Politics and Private Law’. Obviously, law and politics are entwined in the sense that legislation is the product of politics – the democratic process of regulating society and achieving workable solutions and compromise in light of political ideology. However, such typology seems less fitting for private law legislative action. Is there really anything political about private law? In fact, in civil law jurisdictions it is often thought that private law is the domain of stuffy lawyers, consists mostly of intricate legal techniques and formal reasoning and is therefore politically neutral.

On closer inspection, however, statutory rules on family law, obligations, property, insolvency and tort, often turn out to have an explicit political foundation or an implicit ideological watermark. Furthermore, such rules may in fact be the product of political compromise with societal stakeholders – pressure groups, employers, trade unions, consumer organisations, lobby groups and the like – or even of the result of cynical party politics. In some cases – at least in the Dutch context – statutory rule-making in private law is in fact the result of an interactive conversation and exchange of policy arguments between judiciary and legislature.

Therefore, (even) in private law there is a political dimension to statute. This political dimension can be analysed from various angles. The contributors to the book chose to apply various methods – some performed a socio-legal analysis of the legislative process concerning a particular piece of private law legislation; others tried to gauge the political dimension of private law statutes by conducting a quantitative analysis; again others made a theoretical inquiry to connect political philosophy and private law doctrines. The resulting volume bears witness to the outstanding qualities of this new generation of Rotterdam-bred lawyers.

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