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Amsterdam Center for Transformative Private Law
Event details of Social Justice, Private Law and Europe (?) 2004-2044 – Keeping the Hope Alive
Start date
24 October 2024
End date
25 October 2024
A3.01 (Research seminar room)

Call for Papers


In 2004, a group of legal scholars from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom released a Manifesto for Social Justice in European Contract Law. The Manifesto was ground-breaking at the time. It has been widely credited and cited, and it is fair to say that it established the idea of a more explicitly progressive transnational discourse in European private law academia. A decade later, in the midst of the sovereign debt crisis, an effort to actualise the Manifesto stumbled upon understandable perplexity: in the words of a friend of the project, “When the very access to the market place is foreclosed by indigence and marginalization, the promise of contracts that would be sweet toward the vulnerable has the flavor of Marie Antoinette’s brioche” (Caruso 2013). Since then, uncountable developments have taken place – not only and not chiefly within private law as such. 

Faced with intersectional oppression and marginalisation, (post-)colonial exploitation, democratic degradation, the ecological crisis deepening worldwide, and the opacity of “disruptive” technologies, one may be tempted, as Caruso, to disqualify private law’s relevance; at the other extreme, one may think that private law is so intrinsically problematic that the only possible lesson from the past decades – including Katharina Pistor’s founding contribution in The Code of Capital – is that private law institutions are, in the long term, incompatible with an even minimally just society and sustainable life on the planet. 

Hence the most pressing question to ask in 2024, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Manifesto, seems to be: can private law be “rescued”, or even serve as catalyst for the changes necessary towards sustainable societies? What can make it a viable idea in 2044, 2084 and counting? Can a more radical reflection on “social justice” that the Manifesto itself invoked be the driving force for making private law a compelling framework? Using the 2004 Manifesto as a starting point offers the additional advantage of carving out a distinct territorial perspective, so often missing in private law theory: what kind of role does Europe play in a viable private law in 20 years and more? While Euro-nationalist efforts to create a European civil code have been abandoned, the Union is more active than ever in a number of fields: accelerating large-scale phenomena as “sustainability” and “digitisation” have created a seeming legal basis for consensus. Unlike 20 years ago, political disagreements are now concerned with content rather than competence. Yet, with nationalism on the rise and Majority World’s preoccupations with the colonial b-sides of the Brussels effect  – as well as prevailing unwillingness to face the task of decolonising the EU at home – the political and normative basis of such consensus seem extremely fragile. 


The organisers invite early-stage and more established scholars to gather in Amsterdam to share thoughts on Social Justice, Private Law and Europe in 2044. We will convene to discuss brief statements and initial ideas that will lay the groundwork for a Manifesto for the 21st century. Those eager to stay engaged will then collaborate remotely over the following months to fully flesh it out.

The workshop will centre around sessions aiming to capture some of the key problems of inequality and social injustice affecting today’s world. Poverty, racism, eurocentrism, gender and queerness, labour and markets, digital technologies, climate change, colonial extraction, and radical democracy, are some of the social (in)justice themes we shall reflect on. Broadly, we understand questions on these intertwined matters as carrying intersectional challenges and invite colleagues interested in joining the workshop to reflect on how such understanding may affect their way of looking at the issues they intend to bring forward for discussion. 

The event will take place in hybrid form for speakers, to enhance compatibility with sustainable academic travel policies.

At the end of the workshop, participants are welcome to attend two exciting moments planned at the Amsterdam Law School on 25 October: the roundtable “From critical to transformative law and legal discourse?” (with, among others, Isabel Feichtner, Diamond Ashgabor, Poul Kjaer, Jiri Priban, Maria Cahill, Jocelyn Olcott), and the inaugural lecture of ACT director Marija Bartl, taking place at the Aula of the University of Amsterdam at 16:30 h.


Potential participants should submit a short (max 500 words) abstract at outlining a question that they aim to address and think is relevant to examining the role of social (in)justice in private law (and vice versa). The conference papers will mainly feed into the collective project, but by presenting and discussing their ideas, authors who wish to develop them into a full-fledged publication can count on a supportive and engaged discussion. While de-centring Europe is an explicit normative concern of the organisers, we encourage contributions that are grounded – whether geographically or in some other actually existing (societal) context. Authors engaging in ideal theory should not be indulging in escapism.  

Deadline: 10 May

Practicalities and costs:  

Authors will receive a response by the week of May 20th and are encouraged to make travel reservations shortly afterwards to make sure costs stay within control and other deserving submissions can be timely considered in case of drop-outs, without aggravating visa-related hindrances. We will be providing (capped) financial support based on need and availability of funds at the moment of finalising the selection. In any event, lunch (2x) and dinner (Thursday evening) will be arranged for all speakers. In selecting papers, we will consider a variety of factors including the quality of the abstract, relevance to the meeting’s themes and goals, the event’s overall carbon footprint as well as, in considering the latter, questions of equitable access.  

Organising committee: Candida Leone (UvA), Tommaso Fia (Universität Tübingen), Martijn Hesselink (EUI), Carolina Paulesu (EUI).

Roeterseilandcampus - building A

Room A3.01 (Research seminar room)
Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
1018 WV Amsterdam