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Distribution and the Law

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Many pressing societal challenges of our time – economic crises, environmental destruction, state violence – can be described as conflicts of distribution. They raise questions not only as to how a more equitable distribution – of prosperity, capabilities, participation rights – may be achieved, but also as to how current distribution patterns have been produced and are being reproduced. Law plays a crucial role in addressing such conflicts – in India and the EU alike: It shall provide procedures for equitable distribution, enforce distributive decisions and embody normative guidance for what is to count as just or equitable distribution. Yet, law is not only instrumental in processes of re-distribution. Law is also constitutive of institutions which fundamentally shape and determine distributions of entitlements and liabilities between individuals, states, regions.

While law has an obvious role in shaping distributional structures in any society, the conversation between European and Indian constitutional scholars in this area seems especially promising. Both polities, India and the European Union, are shaped by what can be called ‘aspirational constitutions’ that not only set a frame for political power and the guarding of negative rights but also formulate economic and political ideals of fair access and distribution to be reached. Both do so in vastly heterogeneous and unequal settings of what we have started to call ‘continental polities’, i.e. societies that cannot be captured with traditional notions of the nation-state or international organization. And both are structured as multilevel, federal systems in which questions of distribution have to be negotiated at many levels at the same time, introducing a host of further questions and dynamics of distribution.

The new series of workshop would continue the conversations we had on ‘democracy in diversity’ that were immensely productive in creating a common understandings of each other and the continental polities we hail from and work in. The new series would shift the substantive focus but continue the organizational framework in that we would like to gather a group of constitutional scholars that study law in a ‘law in context’ approach, i.e. combine it with other disciplinary perspectives. The group should consist of mostly new voices from both continents.