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Module Private Autonomy

Private autonomy is a legal principle. Moreover, individuals increasingly claim to regulate their own agreements with others, their disputes, their property, their bodies and their family relations. There is a constant tension between regulation and autonomy.

  • On the one hand, there is increasing respect for individuals' rights to decide for themselves and pressure on the State to recognise those decisions.
  • On the other hand, society feels the need to protect certain vulnerable persons (such as children, incapacitated persons, and contracting or litigating parties in a weak bargaining position) against the decisions of others.

This need for protection extends to the good morals of the society and public policy (no commodification of the human body or of unborn children). There is even some debate about how much the State should protect people against their own decisions and claims of autonomy. 

The module takes a dual international focus.

  • The first is on private international law. Here students will study the interaction of various legal systems (with respect to jurisdiction, applicable law, and recognition and enforcement) and the role that parties can play to navigate their own way through the different systems.
  • The second focus is the harmonisation of laws. In almost all areas of private law we see a tendency of seeking convergence of laws, both at the European (or regional) level and at the international level. Students will investigate the place of private autonomy in these harmonised laws.

Prof. Thalia Kruger