Research theme

The societal function of law is much more extensive than rule setting alone. Although legal scholars are often unaware of it, every legal phenomenon bears one or more governance dimensions. The NILG aims to explore and analyse these governance dimensions, taking governance as serious as law.

Law functions in a societal context. For a correct interpretation and application of the law, this context often is very important. The NILG believes that a governance approach to law improves the contribution of legal researchers to good governance of national, European and international society.

Three governance dimensions

The NILG sees governance as decision- and policy-making within an institution or a group of people. It is “governing with or without the government” and “policy-making with or without politics”. Governance pertains to the question by means of which mechanisms institutions, or relationships between human beings and/or institutions or governed with a view to achieving one or more policy objectives. The following three governance dimensions are particularly important for NILG research.

(1) Governance as policy-making implies the balancing of conflicting interests, which can be private, public or semi-public (i.e. collective or societal interests). Thus the first distinguishing character of NILG research is that it focuses more on the conflicting interests involved than on the letter of the law.

(2) Governance can be private, public or public/private, according to whether the policy-makers are private actors, public powers or both. Thus the second distinguishing character of NILG research is that it goes beyond the analysis of classic public regulation, and explores the contribution of private actors to the creation, interpretation and enforcement of the law.

(3) The third distinguishing character of NILG research is the following: Exploring the governance dimension of a certain regulatory setting means, in the first place, addressing the policy reasons which have led to the introduction of a certain regulatory setting. In the second place, it means addressing the policies which permeate the interpretation, application and enforcement of the same regulatory setting. In the third place, it means addressing the political, social and economic consequences produced by the same regulatory setting.

Law and governance research

As every legal regulation of a certain issue has one or more governance dimensions and as the NILG aims to research these dimensions, it stimulates interdisciplinary research. It stimulates its research groups to also study their research object from an external perspective (sociological, political science approach, economical). This way the traditional legal analysis of policy, interests and the social effects of the law can be improved. With this, the NILG aims to contribute to an innovative and integrated pursuit of legal scholarship.