The Study of Social Law in the 21st Century

What is social law? And how can it be studied by legal scholars, bearing in mind that vastly different approaches to social policy exist across the globe? Welfare states, and the social laws that structure them, tend to be highly specific to their national contexts, reflecting the distinct values, traditions and economic possibilities of individual national communities. At the same time, welfare states are ever more interconnected, with supranational, international and transnational developments increasingly shaping today’s social legislation. In addition, social legislation is a field of law that has to respond swiftly to economic crises and technological developments, so as to be able to serve its purpose of ensuring equitable social protection. For these reasons, social law is a highly dynamic field, which is continuously adapting to the demands of Europeanisation, globalization and digitalization, as well as having to offer swift and innovative responses to acute challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. One increasingly important area where this dynamism of social law is on full view is that of health law. Whether one looks at the doctor-patient relationship, the regulation of healthcare financing and access or the implementation of public health measures, the law has to accommodate fundamental shifts in societal needs, capabilities and perceptions. This workshop provides an introduction to the study of social law and the distinct methodological concerns that present themselves to legal scholars in this field. In doing so, it focuses, among other things, on the challenges of comparing the social legislation of different countries, the increasing role of the European Union in relation to social policy, and the importance of interdisciplinary and historical approaches to this multi-layered field of research.

Professor Dr Ulrich Becker has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy and honorary professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität since 2002. He is a member of the Academia Europaea.

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The Study of Social Law in the 21st Century

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