A Multipolar Administrative Law

Symposium on “Toward a Multipolar Administrative Law: A Theoretical Perspective”

The idea that administrative law concepts can remain stable over time has been abandoned. Today, administrative agencies are no longer conceived of as simply executive “machines” and command-and-control bodies. There is a growing tension within countries between the executive branches and social expectations for rightsbased institutions, and administrative bodies accordingly develop in an increasingly interstitial and incremental manner. This also happens because the separation of society and administration is less clear, and the public-private dividing line has blurred: dual relationships are becoming an exception; networking and multipolar linkages between norms, actors and procedures are the rule. Legal systems have become more interdependent, due to the import-export of administrative models: this has several implications, such as the fact that some basic principles of administrative law beyond the State have been developing. Furthermore, economic and political analyses of public administrations are increasing; this requires the adoption of multi-disciplinary approaches in examining the field.
All these phenomena – to name but a few – constitute the main features of an emerging “multipolar administrative law”, where the traditional dual relationship between administrative agencies and the citizen is replaced by multilateral relations between a plurality of autonomous public bodies and of conflicting public, collective and private interests. For a long time, administrative law was conceived as a monolithic body of law, which depended on its master, the modern State: as such, administrative law was intended to be the domain of stability and continuity. Continuity in the paradigms for study paralleled the idea of continuity in administrative institutions. However, from the last quarter of the 20th century, both assumptions became obsolete. Administrative institutions have undergone significant changes, due to several factors such as globalization, privatization, citizens’ participation, and new global fiscal responsibilities. Thus, it is necessary to review the major transformations that took place in the field over the last 30 or 40 years, and to address the consequent transformations in the methods used to study this branch of law.
To analyze this emerging multipolar administrative law, the first objective should be to decouple the study of administrative law from its traditional national bases. According to this tradition, administrative law is national in character, and the lawyer’s “ultimate frontier” is comparison, meant as a purely scholarly exercise. On the contrary, administrative law throughout the world is now grounded on certain basic and common principles, such as proportionality, the duty to hear and provide reasons, due process, and reasonableness. These principles have different uses in different contexts, but they share common roots.
A second objective would be to consider each national law’s tendency toward macro-regional law (such as EU law) and global law. While the leading scholars of the past labored (to a great extent in Germany and Italy, less so in France and the UK) to establish the primacy of national constitutional law (“Verwaltungsrecht als konkretisiertes Verfassungsrecht”), today the more pressing task is to ensure that the increasingly important role of supranational legal orders is widely acknowledged.
Whereas administrative law was once state-centered, it should now be conceived as a complex network of public bodies (infranational, national, and supranational).
A third objective should be the reconstruction of an integrated view of public law. Within legal scholarship, constitutional law, administrative law, and the other branches of public law have progressively lost their unity: for instance, constitutional law is increasingly dominated by the institution and practice of judicial review; most administrative lawyers have been overwhelmed by the fragmentation of legal orders, which led them to abandon all efforts at applying a theoretically comprehensive approach. The time has come to re-establish a unitary and systematic perspective on public law in general. Such an approach, however, should not be purely legal. In the global legal space, the rules and institutions of public law must face competition from private actors and must also be evaluated from an economic and a political point of view.
To better analyze and understand such a complex framework, to elaborate and discuss new theories and conceptual tools and to favor a collective reflection by both the leading and the most promising public administrative law scholars from around the world, the Jean Monnet Center of the New York University (NYU) School of Law and the Institute for Research on Public Administration (IRPA) of Rome launched a call for papers and hosted a seminar. The seminar, entitled “Toward a Multipolar Administrative Law – A Theoretical Perspective”, took place on 9-10 September 2012, at the NYU School of Law.
This symposium contains a selection of the papers presented at the Seminar. Our hope is that these articles can contribute to the growth of public law scholarship and strengthen its efforts in dealing with the numerous legal issues stemming from these times of change: discontinuity in the realm of administrative institutions requires discontinuity in the approaches adopted for studying administrative law.

Sabino Cassese, Italian Constitutional Court
Giulio Napolitano, University of “Roma Tre”
Lorenzo Casini, University of Rome “Sapienza”


No. 13/13:  Joana Mendes
Rule of Law and Participation:
A Normative Analysis of Internationalised Rulemaking as Composite Procedures
No. 12/13: Jan Wouters and Sanderijn Duquet
The Principle of Reasonableness in Global Administrative Law
No. 11/13:  Giulio Napolitano
Conflicts in Administrative Law:
Struggles, Games and Negotiations Between Political, Institutional and Economic Actors
No. 10/13Christoffer C. Eriksen
The Expansion of International Law and the Use of National Administrative Discretion:
The Impact on Administrative Battlefields
No. 09/13Thomas Perroud
Administrative Law and Competition:
How Administrative Law Protects the Market? Leviathan as an Ordinary Market Player in Europe?
No. 08/13Lorenzo Casini
‘Down the Rabbit Hole’:
The Projection of the Public/Private Distinction Beyond the State
No. 07/13Peter L. Lindseth
Equilibrium, Demoi-cracy, and Delegation:
On the ‘Administrative, not Constitutional’ Legitimacy of European Integration
No. 06/13Alberto Alemanno and Alessandro Spina
Nudging Legally
On the Checks and Balances of Behavioural Regulation
No. 05/13Stephan W. Schill
Transnational Legal Approaches to Administrative Law:
Conceptualizing Public Contracts in Globalization