Harvard set course for PLT

On Friday, October 21, 2011 the Harvard Law Review will hold a symposium conference at Harvard Law School in which scholars will present drafts of papers on “The New Private Law.” Other scholars will respond to and comment on the ideas of “The New Private Law” from a variety of methodological perspectives. Presenters include Henry Smith (Harvard Law School) on property law, Stephen Smith (McGill University Faculty of Law) on remedies, Shyam Balganesh (University of Pennsylvania Law School) on copyright and Benjamin Zipursky (Fordham University School of Law) on tort law. The full program is available here.

Villa Vigoni Talks

In November 2011 a PLT conference on “The Public Dimension of Contract. Legal Theories in Dialogue” will take place at Villa Vigoni, Lake Como, Italy. The Villa Vigoni Talks, organized by Dan Wielsch, Bertram Keller, Alessandro Somma and Pasquale Femia, shall reveal from controversial theoretical perspectives, if and how public interests could enter into contracts. This public dimension of contracts affects not only legal academics, but also politicians and the democratic public. Private contracts are not only tools of economic competition, but have multiple social backgrounds and effects. These social involvements transcend bilateral interactions. How and to what extent private law takes social contexts and public interests into account is an eminent political question. Diverging national ‘politics of contract law’ imply different theoretical conceptions of contract and the law. The aim of the Villa Vigoni Talks is however not a common theoretical core of the public dimension of contract, but a pluralistic dialogue of theories.


At the XXV. IVR World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy there will be a PLT workshop at August 18, 2011 on “Inter-Legalities. Adapting Private Law to A Technological Age”. The IVR congress is running from August 15-20 at the Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany under the main theme “Law, Science, Technology”. The dynamic field of technological regulation reveals in a paradigmatic way the different political implications of private law. The PLT special workshop aims to clarify what unifies, distinguishes, and relates different theoretical approaches to private law with an open eye to the rapid technological evolution.

Washington meeting

Private law theory goes global! After the successful small Cologne meeting, a bigger meeting took place in the United States. On July 28, 2010, Fernanda Nicola (American University, Washington College of Law) and Ralf Michaels (Duke Law School) organized a private law theory meeting. The date was chosen because it was the excursions date of the International Congress in Comparative Law, which made it possible to draw on participants in the Congress who preferred intellectual exchange to sightseeing. In addition, a great number of participants came just for the workshop. All in all some forty participants from came from five continents to present their thoughts; a number of others came just to listen and learn.
The workshop was centered around a keynote speech by private law theory star Ernest Weinrib (Toronto), with comments from Michele Graziadei (Torino) and Isabel Jaramillo (Universidad de los Andes). Otherwise, the format was unusual. Instead of inviting people we already knew, we wanted to bring together people who did not yet know each other and each other’s work. Therefore, everyone could participate as long as they met one requirement: to submit a brief scrap – texts between one paragraph and one page of length, summarizing how their work, or their ideas, could contribute to private law theory. This meant everyone had little time to speak and much time to listen, and the biggest benefit from the workshop came not from individual contributions but from their interaction.
A program of the workshop is here. Larry Backer wrote up a nice conference report on his blog.
We are also posting a document containing the participants’ scraps, but readers are asked to keep in mind their nature and purpose: these are not fully-fledged academic contributions, and they contain no references. Their purpose was to spur debates, not to develop positions. As a consequence, please do not cite these without individual consent; cite the participants’ published work. Or, better still, contact them personally: we are a network, after all.

Outlining PLT

After the Cologne meeting Dan Wielsch and Bertram Keller drafted an preliminary outline on what could be understood under PLT. It could also be found in the section “What is PLT?”(PDF)

We hope that this outline will initiate a controversial debate about the object and the ends of private law theory and the PLT network. Of course we will review the program under “What is PLT?” from time to time corresponding to the evolving discussion.

What could PLT mean?

Between 7th and 8th of May a meeting of global scholars at Cologne University will consider the question what private law theory (PLT) could mean and if a PLT network will be a sound instrument to foster this endeavor.