Call For Papers


International Conference

Law, Tradition and Conservatism:

Legal Responses to Neoliberal Governance

4-5 November 2019

Aleksanteri Institute and Faculty of Law

University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Call for papers


In the years following ‘the economic crisis’ of 2008, a number of countries in the EU and globally have returned to conservative and protectionist policies, using law to provide a legitimate basis in responding to the consequences and failures of neoliberalism. In today’s Central and Eastern Europe, an alternative set of economic ideas is on the march. Particularly interventionist state capitalist ideas championed by China for the past several decades and Russia under President Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary called his style, adopted after his 2010 election victory, the ‘Eastern winds’ approach to economic policy, to distinguish it from Western liberalism (Bugarič, 2016).

Moreover, Jan Werner Müller (2014) argues that in CEEs ‘something new is emerging: a form of illiberal democracy in which political parties try to capture the state for either ideological purposes or, more prosaically, economic gains’. He points to an alarming similarity of these new forms of democracy to Putin's ‘managed’ democracy: ‘Like Moscow, the governments of these countries are careful to maintain their democratic facades by holding regular elections. But their leaders have tried to systematically dismantle institutional checks and balances, making real turnovers in power increasingly difficult’ (Müller, 2014). At the moment, the Hungarian version of illiberal democracy represents the most problematic example of this trend.

Neoliberalism refers to the revival of the doctrines of classical economic liberalism, also called laissez-faire, in politics, ideas, and law. These revived doctrines have taken new form in new settings: the neo- means not just that they are back, but that they are also different - a new generation of arguments. What unites the two periods of economic liberalism is their political effect: the assertion and defence of particular market imperatives and unequal economic power against political intervention. Neoliberalism’s advance over the past few decades has reshaped some of the most important domains of public and private life, with law being no exception. From constitutional doctrine to financial regulation, to intellectual property and family law, market and market-mimicking approaches are now commonplace in our jurisprudence.

To understand how neoliberalism has affected the law, we have to see the extent to which the law has constituted neoliberalism. The neoliberal project that has metastasized with the advent of globalization and the fall of communism can be defined, labour writer Kim Moody (1997) suggests, as ‘the policy of dismantling the national regulation of economic life . . . in favor of market governance’. This is what is called ‘reform’ today. Neoliberalism also implicates enhanced private, particularly corporate, political and economic power. The interpenetration of neoliberalism and the law raises questions about the power of historical materialism, widely thought to be discredited, not least by the dubious triumph of neoliberalism itself, to account for the development and enforcement of law in a neoliberal era (Schwartz, 2013).

Governments’ responses to this crisis highlights the priorities of neoliberalism: its first duty is to maintain a minimally regulated market, while its last is to the public and those most affected by the results of neoliberal policies. However, this provokes vocal responses from more regulated market economies in Europe, especially those of Eastern Europe, who blame the crisis and its consequences on ideological tenets of neoliberalism. European politics have engaged with far right populism to deal with impoverishment, deregulation, migration and other processes, which they could not handle. At the ideological level, many governments employed such concepts as ‘tradition’ and ‘conservatism’ to fight external pressure to apply universal remedies, which were perceived as aggravations to the already bad situation. ‘Re-traditionalization’ has marked a new set of ideologies and policies that are called upon to heal society. In present-day politics, the appeal to ‘tradition’ is used as a means of maintaining social coherence in a globalised world. These politics appeal to law as a legitimizing framework for such claims, re-introducing an instrumental usage of law.

The Faculty of Law in cooperation with Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki is pleased to announce the annual conference under the Development of Russian Law research project, which will take place in Helsinki on November 4-5, 2019. This conference continues the series of workshops, seminars, and conferences in Russian law, organized by the Faculty of Law since 2008. This annual event is devoted to discussions of new and important topics within the field of Eastern European, Russian and Eurasian law and legal studies.

We encourage submissions of individual papers and full panels in the following themes and beyond:

  1. Neoliberal crisis legislation: deregulation and austerity;
  2. Business law and post-crisis markets;
  3. Legal reforms and social policy: pensions and benefits;
  4. Privacy, data protection and human rights in digital age;
  5. Neoliberal governance;
  6. Legal tradition and dealing with crisis legislation;
  7. Traditional values and legal protectionism;
  8. Neoliberal interventions in the private: gender, sexuality and law
  9. Neoliberal law and post-socialism: connections and discontinuities
  10. Anti-Western claims VS neoliberalisation of the law
  11. Far right populism and instrumentalism of the law
  12. Neo-conservative agendas of human rights movements

We welcome legal researchers from across disciplines to join our discussions of current issues in legal studies and law. We especially encourage younger scholars and graduate students to apply.

The working language of the conference is English. All presentations and discussions are held in this language.

For individual paper submissions, please, include:
- Name;
- Affiliation;
- Contact information;
- Title of your talk;
- Abstract (200-400 words).

For session proposals, please, include:

  • Title of your session;
  • Organiser’s name, affiliation and contact information;
  • Session’s Chair and Discussant;
  • Session abstract (400 words);
  • Each presenter’s name, affiliation and contact information;
  • Each presenter’s title and abstract (100 words).

The proposals shall be submitted by 15 May 2019 via online submission system:

If you have any questions, please contact Assoc. Prof Marianna Muravyeva at