Universality and Particularity: Law and Economics in question?


VENUE: Lille Catholic University, Anthropo-Lab, Lille – France

DATE: Friday 25 November – Saturday, 26 November 2016



The Anthropo-Lab at Lille Catholic University, in cooperation with the interdisciplinary academic network MetaLawEcon, is organising a workshop on Universality and Particularity: Law and Economics in question? This will be a small scale advanced seminar, with about 20 participants (including presenters and discussants) from various disciplines, including law, economics, philosophy, psychology, and behavioural sciences.


The workshop will focus on the universal ambitions of Law and Economics and explore the challenges posed by the development of new approaches, based on multidisciplinary insights articulating theoretical and practical issues.

Such alleged universality of Law and Economics can indeed be and has been questioned, criticised and qualified in various ways. The critics argue that the assumptions of Law and Economics on what the purpose of law is, how law operates or how individuals create and live by rules, are particular, parochial or simple-minded. They do not hold in all domains of life, all cultures or all legal systems to the same extent. Others acknowledge the context-dependence of particular assumptions but hold to the general analytical and/or normative framework provided by economics. Anthropology, experiments ‘in the field’ as well as policy direct our attention to the local contexts and particularities of societies, leading to question the nature of the law. This is in tension with orthodox Law and Economics claiming to have a universal explanatory theory and a universal normative standard. Experimental research could be seen as one way to bridge the gap between these two approaches. By understanding the particular better through rigorous social science, Law and Economics could be more aware of the limits of its universality.


Related questions to be discussed at the workshop include the following:

  • In what sense can Law and Economics, or any other theoretical approach to law, claim to be universal?
  • Could behavioural approaches really call into question universality advocated by Law and Economics?
  • Do “psychological” models of law pose new challenges to the universal ambitions of Law and Economics or, alternatively, are they based on what Berg and Gigerenzer (2010) call “as if” strategies?
  • What are the underlying philosophical concepts at stake when speaking of universality (and particularity) of law?
  • How is universality related to objectivity?
  • Is universality vs particularity the only alternative at our disposal to think the purpose of law?
  • Is this universal ambition of Law and Economics related to an implicit American or Western bias?
  • Does calling into question the universality of law necessary lead to relativism?



MetaLawEcon is an international interdisciplinary academic network focusing on foundational issues of Law & Economics. Its main aim is to serve as a forum for discussing issues at the intersection of Law, Economics and Philosophy. Since 2010 it organises yearly workshops, inviting scholars from various disciplines across the globe. Previous workshops have been held at Tilburg, Bielefeld, Frankfurt, Hull, Debrecen and Amsterdam.


Anthrop-lab or the Laboratory for Experimental Anthropology is a multi-disciplinary research center of Lille Catholic University, aiming to promote experimental methods in socio-economic research and providing cross-fertilisation of various disciplines. In combining academic rigour and societal relevance, the ambition of Anthropo-Lab is to contribute to a better understanding of socio-economic and anthropological changes in the world.


If you want to present a paper, please send an abstract of about 500 words for consideration to the organisers, Malik Bozzo-Rey (malik.bozzo-rey@univ-catholille.fr) and Peter Cserne (p.cserne@hull.ac.uk) by 15 August 2016. Papers on the questions above are especially welcome but submissions on any aspect of the general theme will be considered, including papers using laboratory or field experiments. Selection of papers, as well as assigned discussants, will be determined by the organisers. The planned notification date is 1 September 2016. If your paper is selected you will be asked to provide a full draft no later than 7 November to be circulated in advance among participants.


There will be no participation fee charged for the workshop. A dinner will be held for all invited participants on Friday evening, and lunches will be provided on Friday and Saturday. Presenters and discussants are offered hotel accommodation for two nights but participants should make their own travel arrangements.