Call for papers: stream on “Crisis of the Rule of Law” at the Critical Legal Conference 2016


University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
1-3 September 2016


A Crisis of the Liberal Vision
of the Rule of Law
and Fundamental Rights?
Turning Points in the East and West

Stream organisers:
Adam Sulikowski (University of Wrocław), Rafał Ma
ńko (University of Amsterdam),
Jakub Łakomy (University of Wrocław) and Konrad Kobyli
ński (University of Silesia)


Deadline: 1 July 2016

The political events of recent years, both in Central-Eastern and Western Europe, some of which can certainly be described as ‘turning points’, provide an impulse to analyse the crisis of the liberal visions of ‘rule of law’ and ‘fundamental rights’. What we consider of particular importance, is the growth of the political significance of parties and groups described sometimes as ‘populist’, and the challenges which follow therefrom for well-grounded conceptions of the rule of law. We also consider it necessary to analyse the role (neo-)liberal ideology, including its legal variant, in the process of marginsalisation of the social classes and groups which have made attempts at regaining political subjectivity and empowerment by supporting political parties described as populist.

We would like invite efforts to apply the concept of the political (as opposed to the concepts of ‘politics’ and ‘policies’) to the activity of constitutional courts which, whilst officially perceiving themselves as the exclusive guardians of the constitution, often conceal the influence of political views on their decision-making process. We think that adequate tools, allowing to diagnose the crisis of the liberal vision of rule of law and fundamental rights, can be provided by critical legal theory, inspired by the classical school of CLS, as well as its contemporary continuations in the UK and on the Continent, including in Central Europe. Of particular importance is the combination of critical legal studies with an agonistic philosophy of politics (C. Mouffe). Liberal visions of law as a neutral forum for conflict resolution and of constitutional courts as apolitical arbitrators can be opposed to an agonistic vision of society, which underlines the unalienable dimension of conflict, which is at the root of the social bond (C. Mouffe, E. Laclau, S. Žižek).

Another area which papers submitted to the stream are invited to explore is the impact of a neoliberal understanding of politics as post-political governance upon the narrowing down of the spectrum of ideas accepted by the mainstream, which, after a certain time, leads to an inevitable eruption of the so-called populist moves (C. Mouffe, E. Laclau) which can rightly be described as turning points in the on-going crisis of the liberal vision. We assume that certain choices on the level of political theory (regarding the understanding of the concept of the political) have their consequences in the sphere of political practice, and therefore pre-determine the scope of actual choice. Not only law is entangled in the political, but also politics impact upon legal theory and practice, as evidenced by the phenomenon of ‘rightist crits’ in Central Europe.

The following topics could be particularly worth exploring, but the list is purely indicative:

  • The liberal vision of rule of law and fundamental rights in the light of critical legal theory
  • Constitutional courts and the political
  • The political dimension of legal interpretation and its consequences on choices of interpretive methods
  • The role and significance of political motivations in the activity of courts
  • The so-called populist political movements in the East and West of Europe – similarities and differences
  • ‘Rightist crits’, i.e. the use of methods of critical legal theory in nationalist and conservative legal discourse
  • Social groups marginalised by neoliberal ideology and (alternative) perspectives for their emancipation.


Please send abstracts of 250-300 words to:



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