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9 - Socio-Economic Imaginaries and European Private Law

from Part III - The Transformation of the Law of Political Economy in Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 April 2020

Poul F. Kjaer
Affiliation:
Copenhagen Business School
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Summary

The aim of this chapter is to explore how our ideas about the economy and the market shape the way in which we think about the law, as well as how ideas about the law condition our understanding of what the market “is” and what it “needs”. I argue that legal and economic discourses share a set of fundamental pre-understandings as the relation between the subject of the legal-political order and the social whole. These shared pre-understandings ensure that the law and legal discourse tend to support, rather than subvert, the tenets (if not the particulars) of socio-economic organisation. However, by uncovering this entanglement, we unearth a potentially subversive role for the law. If law and legal discourse succeed in unsettling the shared pre-understandings, and offer alternative imaginaries as to the role of the law in society, they may become a trigger for a broader social transformation.

In the first part of the chapter, I develop a theoretical account, arguing that different economic, political and legal discourses converge around shared, and historically determined, pre-understandings (social imaginaries) as to what constitutes the socio-economic whole, who can act on it, and how. I further elaborate this argument by exploring the transformations of private law as a response to different imaginaries of the economy, politics and society in the last two centuries. In the second part, I turn to European private law to show how a new socio-economic imaginary enters and settles in European consumer law and policy – exposing both the conduits and the contingency of this transformation. I conclude by discussing some of the important impacts of the new socio-economic imaginary on European private law.

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Chapter
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The Law of Political Economy
Transformation in the Function of Law
, pp. 228 - 253
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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