The fundamental premise underlying academic research conducted at Erasmus School of Law is that law cannot be considered in splendid isolation or as an end in itself. It is embedded in the economic and social context that shapes the law. At the same time, the law itself shapes society and defines economic relationships. Examining the economic and social context that shapes the law requires taking into account new developments and challenges that call for a legal or regulatory response.
Cases in point are the global financial and European sovereign debt crisis as well as recent corporate scandals. They do not only raise fundamental governance issues concerning public and private stakeholders but also more broadly highlight the impact of such crises on society and how to deal with them.
Examples of the latter are the increasing (social) impoverishment and radicalisation of certain parts of society. Questioning the role of law in relation to economic and social challenges not only entails research into the law’s problem-solving capacity – both its successes and failures – but also an exploration of the way in which law may create problems due to its particular mode of responding. For example, the European response to the sovereign debt crisis in some countries has therefore had major social consequences.
Another example is the discussion on whether multinational companies pay their fair share of tax is a direct result of the crisis and the resulting budgetary difficulties of governments, as well as the issue of the control of the influx of refugees through migration control by means of stricter enforcement of EU border control, which has fuelled the growth of organised crime (human smuggling and human trafficking) across Europe and its bordering regions.
Law itself also shapes society and defines economic relationships. It is not just a codification of social norms; the law also modifies social expectations. In the Dutch context, this dynamic can be observed, for example, in the legalisation of euthanasia, which was followed by social groups calling for further liberalisation of end-of-life decisions.
Research must therefore also be directed at investigating what modifications through law are effective or efficient.
For example, a law and economics approach to regulation may, therefore, be said to aim at modifying behaviour through law. One illustration in this regard from the area of company law is influencing managerial behaviour through a liability regime (director’s liability). Another example is the use of taxes to influence behaviour, for example, to promote charities and the arts.
In line with this vision, it is the mission of Erasmus School of Law to conduct innovative research on the function of law in its economic and social context. Erasmus School of Law research has a strong social- and business-driven orientation. The motto of Erasmus School of Law is, therefore ‘Where law meets business’.
Erasmus School of Law is committed to promoting international and interdisciplinary research, which is reflected in the academic background of researchers affiliated to Erasmus School of Law and, in connection with it, the five research programmes that Erasmus School of Law currently features. The methods of legal doctrine are the primary tools used in developing legal doctrine in relation to concerns raised in legal practice. Yet, purely doctrinal legal methods often will not suffice to fully grasp the way in which the economic and social context shapes the law, as well as the way in which law itself shapes society and economic relationships. For this reason, our researchers engage with other disciplines such as economics, criminology, political science, sociology, medicine, philosophy and psychology. This interdisciplinary approach takes different forms*.
On the one hand, the insights from other disciplines are used to fill in the context in which the law operates and, in doing so, the other disciplines have a supportive role. Exemplary in this regard is the use of qualitative social-science methods to study judicial arguments and victims’ perceptions of liability law, as well as the use of political philosophy to develop rule of law concepts. On the other hand, certain areas choose an approach that integrates the methods of the combined disciplines. In that event, the development of a theoretical framework and approach is a joint endeavour. This approach is particularly advanced in disciplines such as law and economics as well as criminology.
*See S. Taekema and B. van Klink, ‘On the Border. Limits and Possibilities of Interdisciplinary Research’, in S. Taekema and B. van Klink (eds.), Law and Method. Interdisciplinary research into the Law (Mohr Siebert 2010), 7-32. It embraces different ways in which legal research can surpass the legal discipline and engage with other disciplines, including heuristically, as an auxiliary discipline, comparatively, as well as by actually integrating the perspectives of different disciplines (interdisciplinary in a narrow sense).
In line with this mission, Erasmus School of Law has formulated the following objectives that form the basis for its research and adjoining HR policies:
- to conduct high-quality research that provides high visibility and a good reputation in the national and international academic community; as seen, for example, in the acquisition of national and international research funding, as well as in the visibility of Erasmus School of Law researchers in the international academic and social debate;
- to achieve the significant impact of academic publications in and outside the legal domain in national and international peer-reviewed journals, as well as of monographs and edited volumes at leading national and international publishers;
- to achieve the societal impact of the research in and outside the legal domain through such things as dialogue with audiences outside academia
- to attract, develop, and retain talented researchers at all stages of their career;
- to offer a range of high-quality, internationally competitive PhD programmes and its own graduate school, Erasmus Graduate School of Law;
- to provide legal education that reflects the scientific insights of Erasmus School of Law researchers and the current academic debate in general and which forges links with current social issues.