(P1-03) Complexity and Mainstream Legal Theory

The focus in complexity is different from the focus in classical, mainstream legal theories. Legal postivism evaluates situations and behaviors (actions, strategies, expectations) against previously promulgated laws. And legal realism describes what legal institutions do and extrapolates what the future behaviors of legal institutions will be, based on observing passed performance. Both the positivist and the realist perspective therefore focus on equilibrium, on the legal systems under observation in stasis.

These classical theories are useful and successful. They achieve a great deal. They rest in our minds, and give us a way to picture and to comprehend the law system in its wholeness.

But we are not completely satisifed. One issue is that the classical theories posit an idealized, rationalized world which is at odds with reality most of the time. Another issue is formed by Complex Problems that seem persistent, and immune to legal intervention over very substantial stretches of time. What if legal scholarship were to widen its scope and were to investigate how agents’ and systems’ behaviors interact in real time?

In this project, we will argue that the CANS approach provides an extension to mainstream legal theory, that it will (amongst others) add agent-based modeling and simulation to the standard toolkit of legal scholars. It provides a different way of seeing the law. It gives a different view that includes considering “a crude look at the whole.” And we consider this to be A Huge Thing, as our aim is to provide a context, and a few reasoning and modelling examples that will open the hearts and the minds of legal scholars that share our concerns about the limitations of current mainstream legal theory and practices.

One of the risks we have to face is that we help form a super specialist congregation  that supports a preaching-to-the-converted practice. We for instance fear that the fascinating journal JASSS (the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation) is hardly accessible to mainstream legal scholarship.

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