On 26-28 June 2014, in Florence, the European University
Institute and NYU-La Pietra will host the Inaugural Conference of the
newly established International Society of Public Law (ICON•S).
We invite all our readers to submit proposals for either individual
papers, or even more ambitiously, proposals for panels which, if
selected, will be presented at the Inaugural Conference. Full details,
modules for submitting proposals and for registering for the conference
may be found at the society’s website
Registration for the Inaugural Conference includes the first annual
membership fee in ICON•S and a free one-year online subscription to I
, the International Journal of Constitutional Law
- Why create a new international learned society – are there not enough already?
- Why public law – if we typically teach Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, or International Law (and now the much à la mode Global Law)?
- And why does the word “comparative” not feature in the title of the
new Society? Surely if we bring together constitutionalists from, say,
Japan and Canada or administrative lawyers from Italy and Turkey – their
common language will be Comparative Law?
The initiative to create an International Society of Public Law emerged from the Editorial Board of I•CON
– the International Journal of Constitutional Law
. For several years now I•CON
has been, both by choice and pursuant to the cartographic reality of
the field, much more than a journal of comparative constitutional Law. I•CON
has expanded its interests, range of authors, readers, Editorial Board
members and, above all, issues covered, to include not only discrete
articles in fields such as Administrative Law, Global Constitutional
Law, Global Administrative Law and the like, but also – and increasingly
so – scholarship that reflects both legal reality and academic
perception; scholarship which, in dealing with the challenges of public
life and governance, combines elements from all of the above
with a good dose of political theory and social science
. That kind of remapping of the field is apparent also in EJIL
Its focus remains of course international law, but the meaning of
international law today will often include many elements of the above.
True, in our classrooms we still teach ‘con. law’, ‘ad. law’ and
‘int’l law’ separately – with some justification: they retain their
reality and heuristically, one has to start somewhere. But in litigation
and jurisprudence, lawmaking, and academic reflection, the boundaries
between these disciplines and the borders between the national and the
transnational – and even global – have become porous, indeed so porous
that at times one is actually dealing with an AltNeuland
of public law.
I would say that about 20 per cent of the articles submitted to either EJIL
could be published in both. The boundaries between EJIL
are, unsurprisingly, equally porous.
We are certainly not announcing the death of, say, Constitutional Law
or Administrative Law and the comparative variants of such. But, at a
minimum, a full explication and understanding of today’s
‘constitutional’ cannot take place in isolation from other branches of
public law or in a context that is exclusively national. The same is
true for these other branches too, not least international law. Public
law, as a field of knowledge that transcends these dichotomies, thus
deserves our renewed intellectual attention.
Our German colleagues, who
have always had a more holistic approach to public law, may smile with
In the same vein, the divide between law and political science
become porous too. Some of the finest insights on public law come from
social scientists deeply cognizant of law; also, is there any legal
scholarship that does not make at least some use of the theoretical and
empirical understandings and methodologies external to the legal
discipline, stricto sensu
What then of ‘Comparative Law
’? Are we announcing the death of the
field? Perhaps not of the field, but of the word. The field is
flourishing. It is possible to think of the field of Public Law in
Chomskyan terms: there is a surface language, which differs from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there is also a deeper structure that
is common to the phenomenon of public law. It is difficult to find a
public law scholar whose work is not ‘comparative’ in some respects:
informed by the theoretical discussion of X or Y in another
jurisdiction; referring – often by way of contrast, sometimes by way of
similarity – to a foreign leading case somewhere else, as in ‘this is
the Marbury v. Madison
of our legal system’; addressing universal
themes of constitutional theory or design; or simply searching for a
constitutional ‘best practice’ overseas. Like Monsieur Jourdain who
discovered to his astonishment that he was speaking prose, we in the
field of public law should not be surprised to discover that in one way
or another, we are all comparativists
. To limit our new Society to those
scholars whose work is explicitly ‘comparative’ would be hugely
constricting and would limit many valuable conversations that go well
beyond the formally comparative.
The best example of this new cartography may be found in this very issue in our Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of Van Gend en Loos
, some articles of which are published in EJIL
and others in I•CON
Learned societies have often been founded to validate the emergence,
autonomy, or breakaway of an intellectual endeavour. By contrast,
international learned societies are often driven by the realization of
intellectual cross-fertilization that can stem from disciplinary
ecumenism. ICON·S is both! We believe that there is a compelling case
for the establishment of an International Society of Public Law
predicated on these sensibilities – a new breakaway field, the content
of which respects traditional categories yet rejects an excessive
division of intellectual labour that no longer mirrors reality.
As mentioned, the Society will be officially launched at an Inaugural
Conference which will take place in Florence, Italy, in June 2014. The
European University Institute and NYU School of Law will sponsor this
important event – so that we can spread our wings for the first time in
the historic Villa Salviati, Villa La Pietra, Villa Schifanoia, the
Badia Fiesolana, and the like.
An organizing Committee of both the Society and Conference, presided
by Sabino Cassese, is in charge of the Programme and of the Society’s
first steps, as is the usual practice with such ‘births’. Once it has
taken off, the general membership will elect the officers of the Society
who will take charge of its future direction.
The Conference will combine the best practices of the genre. There
will be several plenary sessions with invited speakers, commentators and
floor discussions on themes that define and reflect the scope of the
new Society. But the heart of the event, we sincerely hope, will be the
response to this ‘Call for Panels and Papers’. We are expecting a
plethora of proposals for individual papers, panels and workshops.
Please do not delay in submitting your own proposals.