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Theory of the norm and democratic regulation

Research project P4/35 (Research action P4)


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The objective of the project is to study the modes of transformation of regulatory policy in democratic societies. It includes both a descriptive analysis and a normative perspective.

The descriptive analysis should make it possible, on the basis of a philosophical approach to the theory of the norm, to understand the evolution of systems of social regulation in their legal dimensions, economic aspects, and social impact.

The normative perspective aims to state the hypothesis of proceduralization of the law and state and to test this hypothesis in concrete spheres of institutional actions such as those implemented in the process of developing and applying social norms.

The starting point of the proceduralization hypothesis is the idea that the optimal way to create the social link in our contemporary pluralistic societies necessarily requires sustained attention to the limitations inherent to the contexts in wich norms are elaborated and applied. The hypothesis also maintains that these different contexts are not autonomous but rather closely interdependent. Its stakes, finally, reside in going beyond the classical conception of democracy which rests, as is well known, on a clear distinction between the moment of the justification of the norm, associated with the legislative function and the moment of the application of the norm, associated with the judicial function.

The primary objective of the proposal, then, is to find modes of state intervention and social regulation which, on the one hand, succeed in escaping the crisis which our political institutions are undergoing, and, on the other hand, equally ensure the possibility of social cohesion in a complex society.

The general finality of the project can be broken down into three specific objectives that can also be viewed as intermediary stages. On the basis of this method, the project aims also to contribute to the development of a new type of interdisciplinary research in human sciences.

The first research theme reflects the first objective. The aim is to construct an epistemological basis consisting of a theory of the norm and a theory of negotiation. This first objective is rooted in research conducted by the UCL team. The expertise of the KUL team will contribute to the fulfillment of this objective.

The second research theme reflects the second specific objective. The aim is to integrate an analysis of current transformations in the organizational modalities of modern law and State. The repeated mutations of administrative law appear to reveal a much more profound and general evolution of methods of state management and conflict resolution. The research of the ULg team will be interpreted in order to check whether the proceduralization assumption does indeed correspond with current transformations in positive law.

The third research theme reflects the third specific objective. The aim is to study regulatory practices in three empirical fields: financial markets and corporate governance; social policies; and telecommunications. The work will first involve describing them as completely as possible with regard to the antinomic couple of regulation and deregulation that characterizes them. This confrontation, however, should subsequently test the relevancy of the hypothesis of proceduralisation against the critique of social reality.


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