15 January 2015

CONFERENCE & CFP: "Anti-Democratic Ideology and Criminal Law under Fascist, National Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes" (London, 10-11 September 2015)

WHAT: Anti-Democratic Ideology and Criminal Law under Fascist, National Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes, conference and call for papers

WHERE: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London

WHEN: 10th - 11th September 2015

Convenor: Dr Stephen Skinner, Centre for European Legal Studies, University of Exeter

Outline and Call for Papers

The Fascist, National Socialist and other forms of authoritarian regimes that emerged in the twentieth century used criminal law as a key component of their repressive and social control strategies. Criminal law was both an instrument in such regimes’ exertion of power, and a medium through which their core ideologies were expressed and could be identified. Although such regimes were not merely negative movements grounded on opposition to other political forces, many of them included elements of anti-democratic ideology in the formulation, application and interpretation of criminal law. This involved rejecting concepts identified with liberal democracy, and purporting to overcome their inadequacies. Whereas for some regimes such as Fascism and National Socialism this was an explicit, self-declared component of their identity, for others anti-democratic ideology was arguably more implicit in their turn away from liberal methods and models of criminal law.

This conference invites participants to question the nature and extent of anti-democratic ideology in criminal law under Fascist, National Socialist and other authoritarian regimes during the 20th century. Although the primary focus is intended to be on Fascism, National Socialism and similar systems in Europe, proposals for papers adopting a comparative approach to criminal law under communism, or to experiences in other parts of the world, will also be considered. Key themes for discussion could include, but are not limited to:

1. Elements, expressions and manifestations of anti-democratic ideology in the sphere of such regimes’ criminal law, a theme that might also be approached by questioning the nature of democracy and its value matrix. Key issues could include how such regimes expressed opposition to the tenets of liberal and democratic orders by rejecting the values of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, individualism and the Kantian formulation of human subjectivity, and equality and the centrality of rights; prioritising State paramountcy with regard to specific forms of threat or categories of enemy; and excluding liberal guarantees in the form of legal certainty and subjective responsibility.
2. The role and influence of key institutional actors in these regimes’ politico-legal orders, and how they perceived, represented, shaped and interpreted criminal law and related ideology, in their own systems, and with regard to their opponents or to orders they admired or sought to imitate. This theme might also involve exploration of whether and if so how anti-democratic (re)formulations of criminal law affected legal doctrine and practice.
3. Comparative and historiographical dimensions. This theme could address how these issues may be understood in intra-systemic perspective, that is in relation to the legal orders which preceded or succeeded the regime in question, or in inter-systemic perspective, that is in relation to contemporaneous democratic (or democratizing), authoritarian or other systems in other States. This may require engagement with questions of definition and terminology, sources and forms of law, and issues of temporal and contextual specificity.
4. The deeper and wider significance and relevance of engaging with the nexus between anti-democratic ideology and criminal law. This theme could relate to the ongoing need to face, or work through, our histories of repression, the role of law, and their continuing impact, or residual influences, in specific systems; and/or it could involve a general concern with the construction and conservation of democracy today, by questioning its relationship with law, State powers to prohibit and punish, and the extent of differences from, and problematic connections with, democracy’s purported historical opponents.

After the conference and subject to strict criteria of quality and thematic cohesion, the aim is to publish selected papers in an edited, peer-reviewed collection with a leading publisher.

Key Information
- Any questions about these themes, the suitability of a possible paper, or suggestions for specific panels may be directed by email to the conference convenor, Dr Stephen Skinner:
- Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted by email to no later than 7th April 2015. Abstracts must include your name, affiliation, email address and a brief note (no more than 2-3 lines) about your research interests and key relevant publications.
- A draft programme will be announced as soon as possible after the abstract submission deadline, together with registration details.
- The standard registration fees for a two-day conference at the IALS are £70 concessionary rate, including speakers and panel chairs; £120 for other participants. Travel and accommodation are not included

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