Social Diversity – a Challenge for State Law

Conference on legal pluralism at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

June 12, 2017
From 14 to 16 June 2017 the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle will host a conference entitled ‘(Re)designing Justice for Plural Societies: Accommodative Practices Put to the Test’. At this three-day conference, organised by the MPI’s department ‘Law & Anthropology’, more than 30 international scholars will draw on practical case studies to explore the conflicts that arise in modern societies when different concepts of law and justice collide, as well as how these conflicts might be resolved.

Globalisation, migration, and the social changes that accompany these processes have dramatically changed modern societies. Daily confrontation with new or unfamiliar lifestyles and practices has created a constant challenge for the cohesion of civil society. The integration of cultural, religious, ethnic, or linguistic minorities likewise poses a challenge to state legal systems, which must adapt to the new situation. ‘Social systems change much more quickly than legal systems; consequently conflicts may arise regarding, for example, the observance of religious practices that the majority of society finds new or unfamiliar’, explains Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Foblets, Director of the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

State Laws Must Adapt to Social Diversity
Protecting the freedom and dignity of its citizens is one of the most important tasks of a state. Foblets notes, ‘Legal norms are not just restrictive; in many cases they also create the necessary conditions for individuals to be able to realise their ideas of the good life. Therefore, the members of a society must feel that state regulations create space in which their life plans can unfold. And this space must be equally available to all people – regardless of their origins, their skin colour, or what god they pray to.’ If this is not the case, there is danger that people will feel excluded from society and from decision-making processes. ‘For this reason, the conference will focus on the discussion of best-practice examples that suggest what solutions are possible when the ways of life of minorities come into conflict with state legal systems. And if we are to avoid permanently criminalising certain ways of life that large numbers of people adhere to, in the future we must also engage in discussions with political decision-makers about how legal systems can be adapted more quickly in response to social change’, Foblets concludes.

PDF of the conference programme

PR contact
Stefan Schwendtner
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Abteilung Forschungskoordination
Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung
Tel.: 0345 2927-425

Contact for this press release
Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Foblets
Direktorin – Abteilung Recht & Ethnologie
Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung
Tel.: 0345 2927-301

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