Conference: “The Normative Complex: Legal Cultures, Validity Cultures and Normativities” (09.04.2014)

It is no exaggeration to speak of the rediscovery of the normative dimension of social life. Although for Talcott Parsons, the normative solution of the order problem should at least offer some orientation in the confusing field of social theory, numerous approaches taken by social and cultural sciences did not dwell on this discourse. Likewise, newer culture-theoretical access points also take scant notice of the world of law and normativity.

Meanwhile, a need to deal with the basic question of the normative world anew and in novel ways is growing within the traditional disciplines dealing with questions pertaining to the normative-legal shaping of the world, i.e. jurisprudence, legal philosophy, legal theory, and also legal history.

The reason that calls for heightened attention to be paid to the “realm of the normative”, as Foucault called it, is apparent: Normative weight is shifting from the nation state to transnational spaces of law and validity. Simply put, the reason can be found in processes of globalization. The simultaneous increase in personal orders of validity rekindles culturally shaped minority laws and thereby heightens the potential that encounters of legal cultures do not only end in dialog, but also in conflict. The issue of familiarizing oneself with the world of norms of the other is then not simply a question of moral recognition but a precondition for intercultural communication through the medium of law. Cognitive competencies over legal-cultural idiosyncrasies and differences are therefore not only a matter of import for specialists or for legal training, but also for economic or political actors and further also for successful daily behavior.

The conference program outlined below is an attempt to assemble interested scholars to discuss these fundamental questions. The open concept of the “normative complex” is intended to bring together such discourses on legal cultures, validity cultures and normativity. Such an undertaking requires that a sharp theoretical focus rests on the concept of legal cultures that has taken up a key position in the analysis of legal-normative diversity particularly since the publication of the works by Friedman, Cotterrell and especially by David Nelken. To what extent “validity cultures” might be useful as a new concept for sorting legal cultures according to their mode of validity and vesting these with more far-reaching explanatory power will be discussed next. In order to further enrich our problem statement, the analysis will then focus on how “normativities” are invoked as a substitute, supplementary concept or as integrative semantics and how they might enable differentiation within the “realm of the normative”. The question of the normative power of the factual legal and normative pluralism is of great importance, and the design of global legal cultures that, in fact, try to reconcile such diversity, is an issue requiring most careful theoretical and empirical analysis. No less crucial is the question of what constitutes the original binding forces of a normative claim to validity: What ultimately constitutes the “force du droit” in the sense of Bourdieu or the “deontic power” in the sense of John Searle is of great relevance to secular validity cultures that have cut themselves off from religious sources of validity and their transcendental power. This leads us back to what was treated as self-evident in the 19th Century, namely that “orders” – as Max Weber remarked in the part of “Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” related to law – encompasses not only law, but also mores and conventions. Seen from Elias’ point of view, one would also have to include “manners”, as well as a power that holds a temporary claim to validity and is often ignored by academic studies: fashion.

In the light of these discussions, we shall deal with the very pragmatic question whether (and if so to what extent) we should feel compelled to engage in theoretical synthesis or whether we should rather also apply the strongly assumed normative pluralism to the “rules for the direction of the mind” (Descartes) without falling into the trap of arbitrariness.


Date: 09.04.2014
Venue: Konferenzraum 2 in der Rohmühle, Rheinwerkallee 2, 53227 Bonn

Von Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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