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Speaker(s): Professor Ralf Michaels
Chair: Professor Trevor Hartley

Recorded on 17 November 2011 at Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House

We are witnessing a paradigmatic shift in the reality and theory of law. The new transnational law – international commercial arbitration, non-state codifications like the UNIDROIT Principles, the alleged emerging convergent legal order– cannot be safely grounded, as law has been for a long time, in the state. Yet what its foundations are, or should be, remains unclear.

In this situation, a remarkable number of authors shift from rational of political argument to invocations of dreams, faith, vision, as basis for the new transnational law. Most would dismiss these invocations as purely rhetorical. But dreams, vision and faith have played a central role in the history of texts in literature and political philosophy since at least the Bible, and current authors are, even if unknowingly, placing themselves in these traditions.

The new transnational law is utopian in the literal sense of the word: placeless. Once we realize this connection, we can say more about its reality and its potential.

Michaels studied law at the Universities of Passau and Cambridge, U.K. While at Duke, he has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Panthéon/Assas (Paris 2), Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Toronto; he has also held senior research fellowships at Harvard and Princeton, as well as the American Academy in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Private Law in Hamburg.

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