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         Those Who Made and Developed the RCSL

         André-Jean Arnaud




André-Jean Arnaud died on December 25th 2015, aged 79. We are indebted to him for initiatives of the utmost relevance for the development of the sociology of law and socio-legal studies. More than that: he personified this development.

André-Jean Arnaud already published several influential books on socio-legal topics in the 1970’s; among them: Essai d’analyse structurale du Code civil français (1973), Les juristes face à la société (1975), and La justice (1977). Taking advantage of the work preparing another book, Critique de la raison juridique I: Où va la sociologie du droit? (1981), he created in 1980 the Cerc¬le de sociologie et nomologie juridiques – Cercle de cordialité, an informal grouping of French speaking socio-legal scholars, from France, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, and French speaking African countries. This network, strengthened by frequent and intense meetings, and the special support of his friends Jacques Commaille and François Ost, provided the conditions for the implementation of an impressive set of scientific projects: in particular the launching of a journal, Droit et Société, in 1985, and, under the same heading, of a book series (Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, since 1991), as well as the publication of a Dictionnaire encyclopédique de théorie et sociologie du droit (1988, 2nd ed. 1993).

Arnaud’s concern was, from the beginning, to link this francophone dynamic to the broader international development of the field. This is why he took up the challenge of organizing the 1985 RCSL Meeting in Aix-en-Provence; why he participated in the concluding analysis of the world report published under the coordination of Vincenzo Ferrari, Developing Sociology of Law (1991); and why – a crucial decision in his life course – he accepted in 1988 to be the first scientific director of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati. This meant, in concrete terms, to invent the Institute; to invent a new type of instrument for global scientific cooperation. The long lasting success of the Institute, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014, proves the accuracy of its institutional design. And this design was shaped, to a significant extent, by practices initiated by André-Jean Arnaud, according to a programme convincingly presented by him at the inauguration ceremony he organized in May 1989.

In the years after his time in Oñati, he gave a new impetus to the French speaking socio-legal community, by promoting the founding of the French Association Droit et Société, and by creating the Réseau Européen Droit et Société, under the auspices of the French Centre National de la Recherche scientifique. Apart from numerous meetings and publications, a remarkable achievement of this network was the setting up of a website offering comprehensive and systematically updated information on socio-legal research world-wide (a website only very recently replaced by the scientific blog now complementing the journal Droit et société).

Outside the French speaking world, his most significant recent contribution to the global development of the sociology of law relate to Brazil, one of his many homelands, the one he shared with Wanda Capeller, his partner in life and science for decades. It was the setting up of a MOST-UNESCO Programme on Economic Globalization and Mercosur Law, and of a UNESCO Chair “Human Rights and Violence: Government and Governance”. Fruits of these initiatives were, among others, a Dicionário da Globalização (Rio de Janeiro, 2006) and his last book: La gouvernance, un outil de participation (2014).

As an exceptional scientific entrepreneur, André-Jean Arnaud deeply shaped the organizational structures of our domain. He also left us intellectual challenges in tune with the complexity and uncertainty of our time, an input which was recognised last year 2015 with the Adam Podgòrecki Prize. In particular, his writings invite us to re-invent the role of socio-legal scholarship in the face of the profound transformation of structures of governance, on a local, national, regional, and global level. And to give priority, in our theoretical and empirical research agenda, to the understanding of social forces and creative dynamics, beyond the social structures which these forces both require and have to transcend. A dialectical relationship he did not only discuss in his scholarly writings, but, above all, he intensely experienced – and helped those, many in number, who had the good fortune to work with him, experience – in practice.

Pierre Guibentif


(Source: RCSL Newsletter Winter 2015-2016)




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This page last updated 10 May 2016

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