23 February 2017: Ralf Michaels (Duke University)

On 23 February 2017, Professor Ralf Michaels of Duke University Law School will give a law and polity seminar entitled:

Law and Recognition:  Towards a relational concept of law?

Law is plural. In all but the simplest situations multiple laws overlap — national laws, subnational laws, supranational laws, non-national laws.  Our jurisprudential accounts of law have mostly not taken this in. When we speak of law, we use the singular. The plurality of laws is, at best an afterthought. This is a mistake. Plurality is built into the very reality of law.   This paper cannot yet provide this concept; it can serve only to develop one element. That element is recognition. Recognition is amply discussed in the context of Hart’s rule of recognition, but this overlooks that recognition matters elsewhere, too. My suggestion is that we should accept not one but two rules of recognition in the concept of law. One, well-known, is the rule of internal recognition as developed by H.L.A. Hart — the idea that a developed legal system requires its recognition as law by its officials. The other, much ignored but equally important, is the rule of external recognition — the idea that law is law insofar as it is recognized externally by other legal systems. The rule of internal recognition is an example of a secondary rule. The rule of external recognition is of a different type. It is a tertiary rule. Hart suggested that a legal system is not complete unless it has, in addition to primary, also secondary rules. My suggestion is that, under conditions of legal pluralism, a legal system is not complete without such tertiary rules.

Ralf Michaels is an expert in comparative law and conflict of laws, and a professor at Duke University School of Law. He  is the editor or co-editor of two special volumes of the American Journal of Comparative Law: “Beyond the State? Rethinking Private Law”, 2008 (also published as a book) and “Legal Origins”, 2009, as well as a book and a journal issue on conflict of laws: Conflict of Laws in a Globalized World (2007); Transdisciplinary Conflicts, Law and Contemporary Problems, 2008.

Michaels has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Panthéon/Assas (Paris II), Princeton, Pennsylvania, Toronto, and the London School of Economics. 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. In 2015, he gave a number of lectures on private international law at The Hague Academy for International Law.


The seminar will take place at 11:00 in Seminar Room 7.18, David Hume Tower, George Square, University of Edinburgh.

The paper can be accessed here.

Maps to the David Hume Tower can be accessed here.