CEU Legal Studies Department Hosts 20th Annual Individual vs. State Conference
The CEU Legal Studies Department welcomed nearly fifty legal faculty and legal professionals from around the world to present their papers based on the conference theme “The Tragedy of Liberty? From Liberation to Self-Destruction and Irrelevance” at the 20th annual Individual vs. State Conference on June 8 and 9. Andras Sajo, the founding dean of CEU's Legal Studies Department and judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and CEU Professor of Legal Studies Renata Uitz gave the opening remarks.
“The conference series started with the clear intention to contribute to the intellectual roadmap that was supposed to bring freedom into former totalitarian regimes,” said Sajo. “It seems appropriate to revisit the original plan of liberation one score later when the whole world is confronted with new challenges to freedom.” Sajo, who presented his paper “Liberty and its Competitors,” opened the conference by discussing the theme and saying, “freedom is a daring exercise against fate and it's doomed to tragedy.” His paper explores the concepts of freedom and liberty and the human pursuit of both along with inherent paradoxes.
During the first panel discussion, Shlomo Avineri of Hebrew University addressed many of Central and Eastern Europe's pressing issues regarding democracy and its continuing evolution. “We need a more realistic assessment of what happened in 1989 and since then,” Avineri said. “Democratic traditions in Western world did not happen overnight. In France, it took over 100 years for a legitimate democracy to evolve. To imagine that countries that were living under communism and fascism would transition smoothly to democracy was unrealistic. Democracy is not pre-determined; it needs work.” Visiting CEU Legal Studies Professor Daniel Smilov echoed Avineri's sentiments saying, “Eastern and Central Europe underestimated the difficulty of transition and also, perhaps, disappointment in how democracy actually works.”
The event also afforded the opportunity to celebrate the publication of the Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, which was co-edited by Sajo and Michel Rosenfeld, the Justice Sydney L. Robins professor of human rights and director of the Program on Global and Comparative Constitutional Theory at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “In many regards, the book is the work of an invisible college built around CEU,” Sajo said. “Twenty-three contributors of the volume are current or former CEU faculty (including CEU graduates) or are repeat players of the 'Individual versus State' conference series that is integrated into the curriculum of CEU's Legal Studies Department.”
The book features leading political scientists, legal scholars, and judges and is the first comprehensive reference in the field of comparative constitutional law. It presents a global, comparative perspective on the central concepts, institutions, and processes of constitutional law. Contributors also analyze comparative jurisprudence on constitutional rights, offering a valuable inroad into understanding comparative human rights law.
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