Globalization of Law and Basic Legal Freedoms
Author: Terence Halliday
Across the world basic legal freedoms are being fought for, consolidated, and defended. That is the case for nations that have never enjoyed those freedoms, for nations that have advanced towards and then retreated from first generation rights, for nations that have recently shifted from authoritarian to liberal political systems, and for mature democracies facing terrorism and domestic conflict.
A recently completed book, Fighting for Political Freedom, tests for the contemporary world the proposition that lawyers are active agents on behalf of basic legal freedoms. It examines whether legal professions not only orient themselves to a market for their services but frequently are in the vanguard of actors seeking to institutionalize political liberalism. On the basis of some 16 case studies from across the world, the contributors to this project present a theoretical link between lawyers and political liberalism having wide-ranging application over radically diverse situations in Asia and the Middle East, North and South America, and Europe. They argue that it is not the politics of lawyers alone but the politics of a ‘legal complex’ of legally trained occupations, centred on lawyers and judges, that drives advances or retreats from political liberalism; that political liberalism itself is everywhere in play, in countries with established democracies and those without liberal politics; and that it is now clear that the legal arena is a central field of struggle over the shape of political power. The case studies provide powerful evidence that the nexus of bar and bench in transitions towards or away from political liberalism is a force which has universal application.
Two new phases of this project bring together scholars from around the world on two related topics: (1) the impact of the legal complex on basic legal freedoms in the countries of South Asia, South East Asia, and Africa, which gained their independence from Britain after World War II; and (2) the impact of insecurities, including fear of terrorism, on retreats from basic legal freedoms in countries where they have been long established.