Conference Report: 68th MPSA Annual Conference

The Midwest Political Science Association met for their 68th Annual Conference in Chicago in late April. The conference, which alongside that of the American Society of Political Science, operates as one of the larget gatherings of those interested in the field bought together around 3000 people for 4 hectic and fascinating days in the Windy City.

Although a surface glance at the title of the conference suggests little interest in or for the lawyer, let alone the European lawyer, the mere sight of the conference programme with up to 43 parallel sessions each meeting in up to 5 panels a day covering a number of themes over the course of the conference suggested otherwise. Indeed, political science rather seemed to be inherently connected with and interested in lawyers, law and the process of law-making with at least 3 of the sessions devoted to purely legal questions.

Such a setting, law within another discipline, was apt to create a natural emphasis on law in its social setting and this was reflected in many of the papers that made up these 3 sessions. Topics ranged from the perceptions of deviancy and legality to the use of executive legislating in South America. Of particular interest in the international context was a regularly recurring theme of the interaction of established, black letter legal doctrines with alternative sub-cultures and 'soft law' mechanisms within wider society.

Interest in goings on across the pond were reflected in a number of papers including the attitude of the newly invested judges of the UKSC towards their new home, the implementation of laws regulating religious symbols and the use of effective alternative dispute mechanisms in civil and common law systems. ETL staff member Colm McGrath presented a paper outlining the role that different social conceptions of medicine in C19th Europe played in influencing the shape of legal regulation of malpractice. This was of particular interest given the unique, and much fraught American experience with similar problems.

This was very rewarding conference to attend, not least as each paper had been assigned a specific commentator who led off on questions and thoughts both as to the substance and the publishable nature of the paper. To analyse law in the wider social setting that is necessary to its creation is a rewarding and educative process, even for the established lawyer, and this conference was a good reminder of the many interesting interdisciplinary approaches available to the scholar.


ETL Staff Presenting:
Colm McGrath: Law, Healthcare and Cultures: The Creation of Medical Fault in C20th Europe



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