Socio-Economic Imaginaries and European Private Law
An edited version of this paper will be published in ‘The Law of Political Economy: Transformations in the Function of Law’ edited by Poul F. Kjær’, CUP, 2019
Centre for the Study of European Contract Law Working Paper No. 2019-02
24 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 17, 2019
The history of private law is closely linked to the changing imaginaries of the economy and the market. This chapter aims to map the transformations of private law through three distinctive socio-economic imaginaries: the market as a “natural entity out there”, that is, the imaginary of self-regulating market; the market as a “political project” that may be shaped and re-shaped in a way that is deemed desirable or just, and finally market as a tool for “rationalising life”. Each of these imaginaries has come with different subject(ivities), institutions, instruments, and private law discourses.
In the first part of the chapter, I elaborate the concept of “socio-economic imaginary”. Along with tracing its intellectual pedigree, I will focus on the channels through which socio-economic imaginaries imprint (private) law as well as its corollary, how private laws enable and frame the transformations of market imaginaries themselves. In the second part of the chapter, I turn to European private and in particular consumer law in order to demonstrate how a new socio-economic imaginary enters and settles in European consumer law and policy. Taking as a starting the European Commission’s communications on consumer policy, I illustrate how over the last 30 years different imaginaries of the market and economy have shaped the horizons in EU consumer law. Finally, in the third and last part of the chapter, I illustrate some of the important impacts of the new economic imaginary on European private and consumer law. These include both the understanding of the subject of EPL as well as the relation of this subject to the social whole.
Keywords: Private Law, Social Imaginaries, European Law, Political Economy, Legal Conciousness
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