Law Disrupted, Law Re-Imagined, Law Re-Invented



SPEAKER: Roger Brownsword November 7th 6.30 PM Warsaw University, Lipowa 4 St. 

(Image removed) Professor Roger Brownsword

This lecture―on the (technological) disruption of law, on the need to re-imagine law, and on the re-invention of law―is in three parts.

First, a fourfold disruption to law (and to the legal mind-set) is sketched. This disruption arises as emerging technologies impact on the content of legal rules, on the way in which lawyers assess the adequacy of the law, on the tools that might be applied for regulatory purposes, and on the regulatory mind-set. The direction of travel that is implicit in these disruptions involves the decentring of governance by rules and, concomitantly, the displacement of a mind-set that is focused on the coherence of the body of legal rules.

Secondly, unless we are to ignore these disruptions, lawyers need to re-imagine law. In order to do this, it is suggested that lawyers should frame their thinking by imagining that ‘law’ as traditionally conceived is part of a larger regulatory environment in which there are both normative and non-normative signals. Whereas the normative signals (of legal, moral, and religious codes) prescribe what we ought to do, the non-normative signals focus on the practical options that are available to us, dictating what we can and cannot do.

Thirdly, it isargued that, if power is to be regulated, both normative and non-normative instruments should be subjected to the discipline of the Rule of Law. The ideals of law need to be re-invented; they need to be applied to the re-imagined field of law; and they need to be sensitive to the full range of regulatory responsibilities, namely, protecting the essential conditions for human social existence, respecting the fundamental values (such as human rights, human dignity, and so on) that distinguish the community as the particular community that it is, and striking acceptable balances between the legitimate competing interests of citizens.


Roger Brownsword is a graduate of the London School of Economics. From 1968 until 2010, he held full-time academic positions, first, at the University of Sheffield and then at King’s College London. Currently, he holds part-time professorial positions at King’s College London and Bournemouth University, and he is Honorary Professor in Law at Sheffield University.

He has published 20 books and some 250 papers. His books include Understanding Contract Law (Sweet and Maxwell, 1987) and Key Issues in Contract (Butterworths, 1995) (both with John Adams), Human Dignity in Bioethics and Biolaw (Oxford University Press, 2001) (with Deryck Beyleveld), Contract Law: Themes for the Twenty-First Century (Oxford University Press, 2006), Consent in the Law (Hart, 2007) (with Deryck Beyleveld), Rights, Regulation and the Technological Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2008), Regulating Technologies (Hart, 2008) (co-edited with Karen Yeung), The Foundations of European Private Law (Hart, 2011) (co-edited with Hans-W. Micklitz, Leone Niglia, and Stephen Weatherill), Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press, 2012) (with Morag Goodwin), the Cambridge Handbook of Human Dignity (Cambridge University Press, 2014) (co-edited with Marcus Duwell, Jens Braavig, and Dietmar Mieth), the Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (Oxford University Press, 2017) (co-edited with Eloise Scotford and Karen Yeung), Contract and Regulation: A Handbook on New Methods of Law Making in Private Law (Elgar, 2017) (co-edited with Rob van Gestel and Hans-W. Micklitz); and his forthcoming book, Law, Technology and Society: Re-Imagining the Regulatory Environment (Routledge).

He is the founding general editor (with Han Somsen) of Law, Innovation and Technology; and he is a member of the editorial board of the Modern Law Review, the International Journal of Law and Information Technology, Ethical Perspectives (The Netherlands), and the Journal of Law and the Biosciences (USA).

Outside the university, he was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics from 2004–2010; and he was Chair of the Ethics and Governance Council for UK Biobank from 2011–2015. He has served as a specialist adviser to parliamentary committees (on stem cells and on hybrid embryos); and, he served on the Royal Society Brain Waves' Working Party on neuroscience and the law and, most recently, the Royal Society’s Working Party on machine learning.





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