For nearly two millennia, in increasingly consistent fashion, Western legal cultures have assigned legally valid things a central place in settling social arrangements. Legal validity is a technique for making and unmaking legal relationships. Contemporary jurisprudential writings obscure the nature and importance of this technique. They narrowly focus on the validity of norms or rules. But this focus is relatively novel in validity’s protracted history. When the technique of legal validity begins to be devised, validity is first and foremost a property of acts, chiefly of acts arranging personal relations in the sphere of private life and business, such as contracts, wills, marriages or gifts. Eventually validity comes to be predicated, by extension, of official decisions such as appointments or judgements, until, around 200 years ago, it starts to gain currency as a property of general enactments and their abstracted products, legal norms – hand in hand with the rise of modern constitutionalism. Validity’s neglected history, from Roman times to the age of codification, reveals the distinct needs that validity was born to meet and remains capable of meeting today.

To obtain a copy of the paper, please email Birke Häcker.

A sandwich lunch will be available from 12.30. The meeting will begin at 1pm.

This event is organised jointly with the programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government.