For decades, consumer law has been the stepchild of the legal discipline, neither public nor private law, not classic but postmodern, not ‘legal enough’, ‘too political’, in short, a discipline at the margins, suffering from the haut goût and striving to change society through law for the ‘better’. Just like Atreyu, Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, the Ghostbusters, Naruto Uzumaki, Dreamworks’ dragon trainer, and many others, consumer law is the underdog carrying the burden of saving the day. Times are changing. We are perhaps reaching the point at which the world comes to understand the real value of consumer law in a society that is dominated by and dependent on private consumption. Publishing houses and ever more numerous researchers from public and private law perspectives, working on national, European and international law are getting into what is no longer a new legal field. Now the time is ripe for a whole Handbook on Consumer Law Research which brings methodology to the fore. This first chapter pursues three aims: first, to embed consumer law research into the overall development of legal research since the rise of consumer law in the 1960s; secondly, to explain our choice to focus on the behavioural turn in consumer law research and present the range of contributions in this volume that engage with the upcoming strand of research; and thirdly, to explore how the recent attention to behavioural insights can be combined with a pre-existing body of doctrinal research and social legal research in consumer law, and outline avenues for further research.
Hans-W. Micklitz, Anne-Lise Sibony and Fabrizio Esposito
Law’s paradigmatic subject has been criticized, especially by feminist theorists, as being relatively invulnerable, complexly disembodied, rationalistic and separative. This is a subject at a constructed ‘centre’ for whom living materiality – even the human body itself – is merely an extended, object-ified periphery – and for whom epistemological mastery and a scopophilic view ‘from nowhere’ reflects a relentlessly assumed ontological priority. Against the impugned Cartesian and Kantian assumptions underlying traditional liberal legal subjectivity, and its subject-object relations, this chapter explores the theoretical gains offered by foregrounding, in place of the ‘autonomous liberal subject’, the notion of vulnerable, embodied eco-subjectivities explicitly interwoven within a vulnerable ecology. What implications could or should such a theoretical approach have for environmental law and processes? What might replace the binary subject-object relations assumed by the autonomous liberal subject, and what kind of juridical imaginary might be instituted by foregrounding the openness and affectability of vulnerability?
In recent years, actor-network theory (ANT), and the work of Bruno Latour in particular, have gained significant interest amongst legal scholars. This approach, derived from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and bearing various links with anthropology and ethnographic methods, has enabled new insights to emerge in relation to the ways in which law operates in everyday practices. The innovative position the approach suggests has been largely based on the breaking down of the dichotomy between nature and society, humans and non-humans, and in turn on an emphasis on the importance of materiality in social practices (and its complexity). In his early work, Bruno Latour therefore laid out the foundations of what was to become a radical rethink of sociological assumptions, by challenging the extent to which humanity can ever be imagined as being fundamentally separate from nature. Consequently, he argued that some of the most fundamental assumptions of modernity, about how knowledge is made, societies are built, and humans can relate to their environment, are mistaken and in need of revisiting. Given its deep engagement with our relationship with nature, and its grounding in the sociology of science, it is somehow surprising that ANT has not been more frequently explored in environmental law – in spite of a few examples. However, more resources are available to those wanting to imagine what an ‘ANT approach to environmental law’ may look like, if engaging with STS and the anthropology of science literature that has in recent years aimed to unpack some of the legal stories that surround environmental practices. In this chapter, I seek to bring together some of this scholarship to reflect on what ANT can bring to environmental law research. The chapter is illustrated specifically with the example of the use of natural resources for industrial purposes, and the long-standing debates on ‘biopiracy’ that have animated much legal debate since the 1990s. Through this example, I retrace the difficulty for modern environmental law to engage with practices that challenge the boundaries between nature and humanity, and the dichotomies on which law has so far operated. I explore how studies that have embraced some of the more radical claims of ANT and STS, and engaged ethnographic analyses of social practices, have illustrated how law often fails to seize the messiness of the entanglement of nature and society. I conclude by discussing how ANT, and the work of Bruno Latour, can be used more broadly by environmental lawyers seeking to reimagine the ways in which law relates to nature.
Roger Brownsword, Rob A. J. van Gestel and Hans-W. Micklitz
Industry codes of conduct increasingly play a role in regulating B2B and B2C relationships and have, as such, become part of the contractual regulatory space. Nonetheless, the relationship between these codes and contract law as the traditional way of regulating private relationships still remains opaque. This chapter sheds some light on the relation between industry codes and contract law by addressing one of the questions that the regulatory role of these codes raises: is there a need for a framework for industry codes in contract law? Building on an analysis of the practice of industry codes, their interaction with the traditional foundations of contract law and a number of Dutch contract law cases involving industry codes, it is argued that contract law itself already includes leads to overcome the conceptual challenges that industry codes pose and to give further shape to the relationship between these codes and contract law. Keywords: industry codes of conduct, foundations of contract law, regulation, B2B and B2C relationships