Research Projects

Consider again two key questions that came to the fore in the exposition of our research focus and method:

  • How does our time reveal itself to us?
  • In what ways does our time require legal philosophy and legal theory to suspend familiar approaches so as to come to grips with the unique questions that it faces today?

Please look at the following three research projects to see how these questions guide our research.

Horizontal Effect and the Question of Sovereignty

The constitutional law of our time has spawned the concept of indirect horizontal effect of constitutional values to come to grips with the contradictory jurisprudential convictions that private spheres should and should not be bound by constitutional principles.

The constitutional theory of our time has largely invoked the notion of indirect horizontal application as a convenient way of ignoring the time-specific questions that come to the fore in the contradictory convictions at issue here.

We have just completed a project that addresses the specific questions that horizontal effect poses for constitutional theory in the form of a monograph – The Horizontal Effect Revolution and the Question of Sovereignty – by that has been published by Walter de Gruyter in 2014.

Law and Literature

Law and literature studies have become very popular in law school curricula all over the world in recent years. This popularity, however, hardly reflects any regard anywhere for the deeply differential and aporetic relation between law and literature.

The relationship between law and literature is generally understood in terms of the question whether law can learn from literature, more specifically, whether judicial reasoning can obtain moral and/or normative guidance from literature. This question, however, hardly ever addresses the deeper problematic that results from the radically different social spaces in which law and literature “operate” respectively.

We have published several essays that deal with this deeper problematic:

and more publications are in the pipeline.

We also have one PhD research project running that deals specifically with this aporetic relation between law and literature.

Law, Sacrifice and Gift

The question whether human existence can escape from the sacrificial dynamics that inform the formation of social and political communities has come to inform one of the major philosophical debates of our time. The question whether there is any relief possible from the deep sacrificial practices that inform the foundation and maintenance of legal systems has consequently also driven our research for a considerable time.

For some years our response to this question was predominantly negative. The major finding of earlier publications suggested that law is irreducibly linked to sacrificial practices – see the essay Timeo Danais et Dona Ferre published in Van der Walt and Ellsworth (eds) Constitutional Sovereignty and Social Solidarity in Europe (2015).

More recent research has lead us to ask whether the economies of the gift explored by Marcel Mauss do not offer some respite from the sacrificial dynamics of law in the founding and maintenance of legal communities. A publication will soon be communicated.

We currently have one postdoc and one PhD research project that deal specifically with this question.