Friday, September 21, 2012

Workshop 2012: Towards an economic sociology of law

In September 2012 Diamond Ashiagbor, Prabha Kotiswaran and I organised a workshop to explore the nature and value of an economic sociology of law – that is, the use of sociological approaches (empirical, normative, analytical) to investigate relationships between law and economy.

The programme is below. Papers can be found in 2013 special issues of the Journal of Law and Society (Volume 40:1 also available in book form via Wiley) and the International Journal of Law in Context. 

Thanks to the Journal of Law and Society and the School of Law at SOAS, University of London for funding.


The aim of this workshop is to explore the nature and value of an economic sociology of law – that is, the use of sociological approaches (empirical, normative, analytical) to investigate relationships between law and economy. It represents a timely and unique intervention into debates around legal regulation within market economies. We seek to locate economic sociology of law within the broader socio-legal tradition, to uncover connections between Polanyian and Weberian approaches to the intersection between law, economy and society and to bring to the fore work which has been in the tradition – if not using the language – of economic sociology of law. In so doing we hope to develop a set of analytical frames which go beyond established ‘law and society’ or ‘law and economics’ approaches to interdisciplinary analysis in law.

The influence of Weber on social theory throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has been pervasive and consistent: Weber’s sociological analysis of law and the economy can clearly be seen as a prototype for an economic sociology of law. His work has also had a significant influence on policy makers, as evidenced within discourse on development, governance and the rule of law: Weber’s observations on the central role of ‘rational’ legal systems in the emergence of modern capitalism and on economic development more generally have been implicitly and explicitly co-opted by the World Bank.
Karl Polanyi's dramatic and troubling probing of economic history, as set out in particular in The Great Transformation (1944), has tended to receive less attention than the, by now familiar, Weberian perspective. However interest in the Polanyian perspective is undergoing a revival, which attests to a wider resurgence of intellectual attentiveness to the ‘social embeddedness’ of market societies. In particular, those working in the discipline of economic sociology draw on Polanyi to challenge ‘economic imperialism’, most especially the assumption of the self-regulating market economy, by asserting the importance of both state action and social relations as constitutive of markets.

But it is only relatively recently that legal scholars have also begun to draw upon economic sociology: whether in terms of insights from Polanyian- or Weberian-inspired scholarship, or from what may be termed the ‘new economic sociology’, owing more to Granovetter (1985). This workshop is aimed at remedying that gap.  By bringing together a range of contributors who – in the tradition, if not necessarily using the terminology, of economic sociology of law – have been studying the interface between law, society and economy at all levels of social life (action, interaction, regime and rationality) both in the West and in the postcolony by deploying a range of methodologies (such as through legal history and ethnography), we hope to cast new analytical light on present and future research agendas.

Session I
Roger Cotterrell, Queen Mary, University of London
'Rethinking “embeddedness”: law, economy, community'
Sabine Frerichs
, University of Helsinki
'From credit to crisis: Max Weber, Karl Polyani, and the other side of the coin
Discussant: Amanda Perry-Kessaris, SOAS, University of London

Session II

Fred Block, University of California, Davis
'Relational work and the law: recapturing the legal realist critique of market fundamentalism'
Prabha Kotiswaran
, King’s College, London
'Do feminists need an economic sociology of law?'
Discussant: Michelle Everson, Birkbeck, University of London

Session III

Adelle Blackett, McGill University
'Decent work for all? The challenge to embedded liberalism of the transnational movement of persons to provide care'
Kenneth Veitch
, University of Sussex
'Law, social policy and the embeddedness of markets and capital accumulation'
Discussant: Diamond Ashiagbor, SOAS, University of London

Session IV

Diamond Ashiagbor, SOAS, University of London
'Social embeddedness and labour market regulation'
Ruth Dukes
, University of Glasgow
'A global labour constitution?'
Kerry Rittich,
 University of Toronto
'What 'makes' markets: labour markets in crisis'
Discussant: Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College, London

Session V

Paddy Ireland, University of Kent
'Property relations and social transformation'
Antara Haldar
, European University Institute
'Revisiting Institutional Theory'
Discussant: Sarah Keenan, SOAS, University of London

Session VI

Amanda Perry-Kessaris, SOAS, University of London       
'Anemos-ity, apatheia, enthousiasmos: An economic sociology of law and wind farm development in Cyprus'

Andrew Lang, London School of Economics
'International law and the constitution of transnational markets'
Dzodzi Tsikata
, University of Ghana
'Socio-economic conditions, employers’ perspectives and the possibilities of legal and policy reform of domestic work'
Discussant: Emilie Cloatre, University of Kent

Session VII 
Ritu Birla, University of Toronto
'Maine against the grain: towards a postcolonial genealogy of the corporate personality'
Rohit De
, University of Cambridge / Yale University
'Constitutional litigation: legal history of public interest litigation'
Discussant: Sharad Chari, London School of Economics

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