Dipl.-Soz. Gerd Bender
Gerd Bender
Researcher, European Affairs Commissioner of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
Phone: +49 (69) 789 78 - 136
Fax: +49 (69) 789 78 - 169

Research Focus Area


The fundamental question when dealing with ‘law’ concerns the relationship between what we call ‘law’ and other kinds of rules that influence behaviour and coordinate expectations but are not treated as ‘law’, such as moral and religious codes as well as technical and pragmatic instructions. This classical question about the essence of ‘law’ is a perennial occupation of the philosophy of law, legal theory, the sociology of law and legal history, but it has recently gained new urgency. Whereas the study of legal history during the 19th and much of the 20th centuries was étatist and employed a positivist, monolithic concept of law, which led to a teleological narrative of history drawn irrevocably towards the ‘state’ and the attendant ‘law’, critical scholarship of the past three decades has increasingly questioned this reductionist view of normativity. Several factors, including cultural history, greater attention to religiosity and the complexity of non-state norms, appreciation for non-European legal histories and the distinction between non-state law as governance (a more complex pattern compared to government), and finally the gradual penetration of post-colonial theory and world history, have shifted the attention of legal history towards normative worlds beyond the state. This converges with new priorities in legal history beyond merely offering semantic concessions. Especially in relation to intercultural dialogue, it is important to direct our observations away from a tacit conception of law and inquiry into the robustness, independence and internal logic of discrete legal systems and towards processes of differentiation between various modes of normativity. The Research Focus Area Multinormativity focuses on such questions, which are important to each research project. It is directed especially at those working on the coexistence of judicial and extra-judicial varieties of normativity, including the related dimensions of norm implementation, of conflicts and synergies in the ensemble of normative layers and the relevance of multinormative constellations to the structure of law through history.

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