Fragmented Law - From Unitary to Pluralistic Legal Systems - A Socio-Legal Perspective of Post-National Legal Systems

What becomes the fate of fundamental politico-legal principles as differentiation and multi-level political systems emerge? This paper captures the grandes lignes of the present development in Europe, where various forces go to counteract what has traditionally been a set of unitary legal systems.

ARENA Working Paper 18/1997 (html)

Inger-Johanne Sand

The forms of political organization and governance as well as their social preconditions have undergone vast changes during the last two hundred years. Still however law and politics remain at the centre of our conceptions of governance. Many of the concepts and the institutions of the very early forms of parliamentary democracy and rule-of-law are still used for descriptive as well as normative purposes. The nation-state as sovereign actor is still also a vital part of our conception of governance. The social and economic surroundings and thus the preconditions of governance have however changed - over time. One of the arguments of this article is that these changes necessitate a wider perspective on what governance and law are, and thus also what the role of law is as part of that governance. It will be suggested, first, that the functions and nature of law and politics have been transformed. Legal regulations have somehow become more multifaceted and many-levelled; still however ideas of the unity and the sovereignty of nation states prevail. The more multifaceted forms of legal regulation have thus so far very insufficiently been understood and integrated into our concepts and understandings of law and politics. Secondly, I argue that the idea of unity of law is incompatible with these changes. Democratization, globalization of markets and the emerging many-layered structures of political and legal organization point to increased differentiation and fragmentation of the legal systems. This fragmentation may lead to dramatic changes in the application of vital principles of law such as justice, equality, reciprocity etc. EC and EEA law serve as primary examples of the present development.

Tags: European law, rule of law, sovereignty, Europeanization
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM