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The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law

The Many Concepts of Social Justice in European Private Law

Edited by Hans-W. Micklitz

This insightful book, with contributions from leading international scholars, examines the European model of social justice in private law that has developed over the 20th century.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Hans-W. Micklitz

Subjects: law - academic, european law, private international law


Hans-W. Micklitz1 1 HOW THE ARGUMENT GOES During the 20th century, the Member States of the European Union developed their own models of social justice in private law. Each model is inherently linked to national culture and tradition. However, all models have a common thread, which is the use of the law by the (social welfare) state as a means to protect the weaker party against the stronger party, the employee against the employer, the tenant against the landlord and the consumer against the supplier. Therefore, social justice is bound to the idea of the redistribution of wealth from the richer to the poorer part of the society, individually and collectively. That is where the idea of the social welfare state is located.2 The integration of social justice into private law and the rise of the welfare state were made possible by way of the grand transformation process that shook Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries and that freed private law from feudal and corporative (ständische) barriers.3 This transformation process is very much bound to the specificities of any given particular country, its economic and social conditions and also timing. Social justice itself is a product of the late 19th /early 20th century, a result of the socialist labour movement. Member States responded to this new challenge in various ways, mostly by transforming their private law systems through the ‘protective’ welfare state in the late 19th/early 20th century. The second wave of social justice began after the Second...