Global Governance: Critical Legal Perspectives Events Honor David Trubek

Professor David Trubek, a central figure in critical legal scholarship, will be honored in a series of events hosted by the European University Institute. Entitled “Global Governance: Critical Legal Perspectives Liber Amicorum David M. Trubek”, the events will explore the emergence of a global critical discourse on law and its application to global governance and honor Trubek’s significant contributions to the field of critical legal scholarship. The event brings together critical legal scholars from Europe, North America, and South America. Participants will explore the forms of law that are emerging in the global governance context, the processes and legal roles that have developed, and the critical discourses that have been formed.

Trubek is Voss-Bascom Professor of Law Emeritus and a Senior Fellow of the Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has written extensively on international and comparative law and has published articles and books on the role of law in development, human rights, European integration, the changing role of the legal profession, and the impact of globalization on legal systems and social protection schemes. He has also made contributions to critical legal theory, the sociology of law, and civil procedure. Currently, he serves as Principal Investigator of LANDS, the project on Law and the New Developmental State; and the co-Director of GLEE, the Project on Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies. He was the co-PI of the project on Law and Development in Brazil in Global Context between UW-Madison and the FGV Law School in Sao Paulo with support from the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development and the Tinker Foundation.

Learn More:
•    Professor David Trubek’s Faculty Profile
•    Professor David Trubek’s Personal Website

For complete event details and an outline of Trubek’s work, see the program description below.  


Academy of European Law, Robert Schuman Center, and Law Department of the European University Institute, Florence, and New York University Law School

Gráinne de Búrca (New York University Law School)
Claire Kilpatrick (European University Institute, Florence)
Joanne Scott (University College London)

Venue and Date
Sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia, EUI, Florence 28/29/30th June 2012

There are three linked events: a Global Governance Debate and a Keynote Speech both on Thursday 28 June and a Conference on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June.

This event explores the emergence of a global critical discourse on law and its application to global governance. As law becomes ever more implicated in global governance and as processes related to and driven by globalization transform legal systems at all levels, it is important that critical traditions in law adapt to the changing legal order and problématique. The conference will bring together critical scholars from the EU, North and South America to explore the forms of law that are emerging in the global governance context, the processes and legal roles that have developed, and the critical discourses that have been formed. By looking at critical appraisals of law at the global, regional and national level, the links among them, and the normative implications of critical discourses, the event aims to show the complexity of law in today’s world and demonstrate the value of critical legal thought for our understanding of issues of contemporary governance and regulation.  Scholars from many countries will present critical studies of global and regional institutions, explore the governance of labor and development policy in depth, and discuss the changing role of lawyers in global regulatory space.

Professor David Trubek is a central figure in critical legal scholarship of the 20th century and the new millennium. He has sought to develop an approach that combines critique of conventional legal discourse with a progressive agenda. A central feature of his work has been fostering the migration of critical discourse to the new legal spaces being created by globalization. The span of his enquiries has been global: from US-focused scholarship, to (what are now known as) BRICS especially Brazil, and beyond BRICS to the EU as well as to transnational and international institutions, networks and social movements. The focus of his enquiries has been developing new strands of critical legal scholarship. His work has made major contributions to the development of Law and Society scholarship, especially the use of empirical work for progressive legal ends (‘critical empiricism’), legal pluralism, the sociology of law and the legal profession, the Critical Legal Studies movement, critical perspectives on law and development (most recently, Law and the New Developmental State) and New Governance. Not only has he helped develop these strands of scholarship: he has looked for ways they could be integrated to form a discourse that would combine critique and reconstruction in the best traditions of Pragmatism and American Legal Realism.

Trubek’s contribution can be seen not only in his writings but also in his significant organizational capacities and achievements. Four recent examples illustrate this: the re-issue in 2011 of the edited volume resulting from the German-US critical legal scholars meeting in Germany organized by Dave with Christian Joerges in 1986; a special session of the Law and Society Association’s 2010 meeting to discuss his work on critical empiricism, reflecting his long-standing contributions to the LSA; the publication by the Wisconsin Law Review in 2010 of a special issue on New Governance and the Transformation of Law, reflecting the central role Dave and Louise Trubek have played at Madison in building New Governance scholarship, especially its EU-US comparative dimension; and the creation of LANDS, the project on Law and the New Developmental State, which is completing studies in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela.

This workshop brings together scholars who have accompanied Dave on some part of these many academic adventures. Its aim is to reflect on the development of critical legal perspectives and chart, assess and shape changing patterns and locations of global governance. Let us take three critical approaches that can be seen in Trubek’s work.  One is CLS-inspired, one sociologically-inclined, one governance-oriented:

  • Unveiling the politics and power implications of ‘classic’ legal rules, institutions and thought (such as the rule of law, the ground rules of private and public law, the frameworks and goals of international institutions) in legal education and scholarship;
  • Exposing the shaping of law and institutions through under-examined mechanisms such as social mobilization, elite network elaboration, litigant analysis;
  • Analyzing the limits of conventional legal tools in the face of the complexities of globalization and envisioning new normative mechanisms that may expand, adjust or challenge our understanding of law and democracy.   

Can these approaches be viewed, sometimes at least, as distinctive contributions to a common endeavor, as complementing each other? Or, in central and unresolvable ways, are these approaches, or some of them, in conflict with one another, leading to very different prognoses for global governance? Is the diversity of critical perspectives approaching global governance a source of health and strength or a sign of weakness through dispersal and fragmentation?  To answer these questions we need to ask what divides and distinguishes these various critical legal perspectives and what can each contribute, going forward, to global governance debates? To do this, it will be necessary to look temporally, asking whether different critical perspectives are relevant for different times as well as spatially, exploring whether different perspectives are required for different places? Finally, we need to explore relations among these critical perspectives: are they in conflict or might they complement each other?

In reflecting on these issues and their implications, it is important to hold on to what unites these disparate strands of critical legal scholarship. All entail rejection of an approach to legal scholarship which rotates ‘around the abiding themes that law is vital, legal processes are neutral and rational, legal scholarship authoritative’ (D. M. Trubek & J. Esser, ‘Critical Empiricism and American CLS: Paradox, Program or Pandora’s Box?’). Not only do they give different answers to the question ‘what is law?’ to that given by traditional legal scholarship, they share a stronger interest than traditional legal scholarship in addressing the question ‘what is law for’?

Submitted by Law School News on June 6, 2012

This article appears in the categories: Articles

Submit an Article