Globalization of Law Lecture 5 | Legal Pluralism in the World Society

On the afternoon of November 4, 2022, the Institute for International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University hosted the fifth lecture of the “Globalization of Law” Series for the fall semester at Room 205, Central Main Building. Themed “Legal Pluralism in the World Society,” the lecture was delivered by Lu Nan, Associate Professor of the School of Law, Tsinghua University and a member of the IIAS Teaching Committee, and was presided over by Ding Chenxi, Assistant Professor of IIAS. IIAS faculty members and doctoral students, scholars and students at home and abroad, and others interested in the topic attended the lecture.

The lecture consisted of four parts: legal pluralism, social world and world society, new law merchant (or lex mercatoria), and critical reflections. At the beginning of the lecture, Dr. Lu Nan introduced that on the basis of Global Bukowina: Legal Pluralism in the World Society by German legal scholar Gunther Teubner, he would share various views and comments on legal globalization in the lecture. He outlined the three aspects of legal pluralism, namely legal pluralism in legal anthropology narrative, legal pluralism in legal sociology narrative, and legal pluralism in the study of legal globalization, and expounded the background, characteristics, and representatives of legal pluralism. As he pointed out, legal globalization itself implies the explosive rise of legal pluralism, which has become a mainstream narrative in the study of legal globalization, and legal pluralism at the aforesaid three levels is the three most distinguishable and noteworthy aspects.

In the second part, Dr. Lu Nan elaborated on the theoretical fundamental and social basis behind legal pluralism. He pointed out that underlying different types of legal pluralism is a common theoretical fundamental, that is, legal narrative transcending state-centrism. He then discussed various assumptions concerning the legal narrative on national centralism and sociocentrism, and defined the two concepts of “social world” and “world society.” As he said, a multi-tiered world society would inevitably give birth to legal pluralism, and when globalization emerges at different levels, laws befitting globalization at that level would come into being, resulting in the diversification of global law. Furthermore, in the process of globalization, global law that has formed at each level becomes increasingly independent of states. In other words, it shows the self-executing feature, self-empowering effect, and self-creating ability.

In the third part of the lecture, Dr. Lu Nan took the evolution of the new law merchant as an example, explained it from different angles, and discussed in depth the phenomenon of legal pluralism in modern society. He said that in the era of nation-state, European countries absorbed the law merchant and modeled their commercial law on it. As a result, the commercial law of nation-state emerged, and economic and legal structures were coupled through contracts. In the era of economic globalization, the nation-state container was first broken in economic life, and globalization appeared subsequently, leading to the decoupling of the economy and nation-state law and giving rise to the new law merchant. However, decoupling is just a temporary situation. Economic globalization is spurring the legal system to bring new laws, resulting in the recoupling of the economy and the new law merchant. Then, Dr. Lu set out the four types of dynamic interactions between the new law merchant and nation-state law; for example, national law and international law attempt to subdue new law merchant, while the latter in turn “reacts” on the former. Dr. Lu also noted the “variation” brought about by the new law merchant and contract law, that is, economic globalization is fundamentally changing the basic principles of contract law.

In the fourth part, Dr. Lu stated some critical reflections on Professor Teubner’s view on global governance. As he sees it, the new view on global governance put forward by Professor Teubner gives short shrift to the possibility of disintegration of the world society. Moreover, political deglobalization would have enormous negative effects, dragging down the overall process of globalization. There are legitimacy deficits in constitutionalism of the world society, that is, the “inside job” of experts as Professor David Kennedy puts it. Dr. Lu then pointed out that when calculating its own operational capacity and boundaries in the era of globalization, a country should be vigilant against dimension collapse strike and derailment in globalization. While Professor Teubner envisions that law would become a self-creating system in the era of legal globalization, Dr. Lu thinks that law is not so much a self-creating system as a universal language, and the interests and demands in each functional subsystem could be translated into the universal language of law to be heard by other functional subsystems.

During the Q&A session at the end of the lecture, Dr. Lu communicated with the audience on a range of topics, such as the interaction between the new law merchant and nation-state law, self-creation of global trade, and deglobalization.

Lu Nan is an associate professor at the School of Law, Tsinghua University and a member of the IIAS Teaching Committee, and holds a doctorate degree in law from Tsinghua University. His research interests include comparative law, legal culture, legal theory, and legal sociology, and he is dedicated to research on the basic theory of comparative law, globalization of law, as well as legal and development issues. He has published a number of papers, such as The Advantages and Disadvantages of Comparative Law in Global Era, The Origin and Change of the Worldwide Index of Rule of Law, The Status and Function of Non -Western Legal Cultures in Teaching and Research of Comparative Law, and The Anonymous Law Merchant: The New Trend of Legal Transplant in Global Era. He has authored several books, including A Reader of Comparative Law, A Reader of Jurisprudence, and Globalization of Law: China and the World.

Contributed by: Ding Ruilin
Proofreaders: Dong Hui, Ding Chenxi
Typesetting editor: Cheng Yao