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Wiley and the European Law Journal

Published on February 5, 2020        Author:  and


It is, we believe, unprecedented that both Editors-in-Chief and the entire Editorial and Scientific Advisory Board of a learned journal should resign en masse in protest at the high-handed behavior of the commercial publisher. But that is what has happened at the European Law Journal in their dispute with their publishers Wiley Publishing.

The statement of the Editors in Chief of the European Law Journal is appended below.

Between the two of us, Editors in Chief of ICON (the International Journal of Constitutional Law published by OUP) we have clocked dozens of years serving as Editors and members of Editorial and Advisory Boards of at least two dozen legal journals; one of us is co-Editor in Chief of EJIL, also published by OUP. We can safely say that never before have we seen even remotely the like of this.   By ‘this’ we do not just mean the mass resignation, but the entire approach of Wiley to the relationship between a commercial publisher and the academics – the editors, editorial boards and authors – who actually make the journal not only an academic and intellectual success, but also give it monetary value for its publisher. The journal generates hundreds of thousands of euros in annual revenue, and Wiley itself estimated its monetary value in the millions. You would expect some respect for the value of the academic world which generate these profits for them, would you not?

In a very productive and amicable relationship with its original publishers, Blackwell Publishing, the European Law Journal (ELJ) had carved a special and distinguished place in European Law scholarship, complementing with its contextual approach the more doctrinal distinguished journals in the field.  Some years ago, however, Wiley bought the ELJ from Blackwell. As mentioned in the Statement by the Editors of the ELJ, the Journal was thrown into crisis when Wiley attempted unilaterally, and in a totally non-transparent process, to appoint new Editors who themselves were given misleading information about the process. That crisis was overcome when an amicable solution was sought and found, and the current editors were appointed with the approval of the Board and on the understanding that this procedure would be the template for the future. The Journal was back on the mend thanks to the extraordinary work of the current editors.

But in the last few months when the new contract was presented, Wiley were back to their old ways. They rejected in toto a compromise proposal on a range of issues  and insisted on their right to hire and fire the editors at their entire discretion. They owned the Journal, it was their property and they would do as they wished with it.

 The Editors and the Board, though disappointed by the rejection by Wiley of a whole range of issues which would operate in the interest of European law scholarship, were not excessive in setting their one line in the sand: Academic appointments to the Journal should be done by mutual consent.   But even this basic principle was rejected by Wiley.

At issue here is the very integrity and independence of the scholarly endeavor in the face of powerful commercial interests.  

We want to believe that no self-respecting scholar will allow himself or herself to be used in any way by Wiley to defeat the principled stand taken by the Editors and Boards of the ELJ.  It is we, scholars of European Law, who actually give commercial value to such a journal by submitting and publishing our work in its pages. We should not be complicit in undermining the most basic values of the scholarly world.

The Board have announced their intention to continue the outstanding and unique service to the scholarly community for which ELJ stood, by establishing in short order a new learned journal with a different publisher to continue the unique voice which the ELJ provided. They deserve our full support.

Filed under: Editorials

The Normativity of International Constitutionalism?

Published on December 18, 2009        Author: 

Professor Gráinne de Búrca is Professor of Law at  Fordham Law School, and during 2009-10 is a Straus Inaugural Fellow at NYU Law School.  She was previously Professor of Law at the European University Institute and Lecturer in Law at Oxford University

One of the aims of Ruling the World?, the interesting collection of essays which Jeff Dunoff and Joel Trachtman have assembled, is to try to understand the increasingly common practice of referring to instances of international or transnational governance in constitutional terms.   What does the vocabulary of international constitutionalism signify, and what is it intended to mean?   They argue for clarity on this basic analytical issue, and propose an understanding of ‘international constitutionalism’ in functional terms.   International constitutionalism should, they argue, be understood to refer to norms which enable or constrain the production of international law.   Their account is entirely neutral (international constitutionalism as a process with no particular teleology) and resolutely functional, such that even their description of the normativity of international constitutionalism has an instrumental rationality. Thus they argue that international constitutional norms should be assessed according to “their ability to enable individuals and states to advance the international public policy goals that they aim to achieve”.

Neil Walker’s concern with international constitutionalism, on the other hand, is with the normative implications of drawing on the language of constitutionalism in the first place to describe the growth and mutation of forms of legal authority across the transnational domain.  The implicit suggestion here, contra Dunoff and Trachtman, is that the development of international constitutionalism is not a natural or a neutral process.  In other words, the decision to frame a development in the language of ‘international constitutionalism’ is a conscious and consequential one, given the symbolic capital of the discourse of constitutionalism and its deep domestic origins. A similar point has recently been made by Stepan Wood and Stephen Clarkson in their rather more sharply critical analysis of ‘supraconstitutional’ regimes such as the NAFTA (“NAFTA Chapter 11 as SupraConstitution“). Like Dunoff and Trachtman, they define international constitutionalism in functional terms but, unlike Dunoff and Trachtman, they do so by reference to what they describe as the function of supraconstitutional regimes in constraining and transforming domestic law and constitutionalism.  Like Neil Walker, they also emphasize the symbolic capital of constitutionalism in noting that almost all of those who use the language of constitutionalism draw on liberal political theory with implicit or explicit reference to concepts such as the rule of law, constraint of power, protection of rights and democratic deliberation.

Already here, amongst three recent sets of commentators sharing a similar analytical approach to the phenomenon of international constitutionalism, we see three different normative evaluations.   Read the rest of this entry…

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