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School of Law

'Human Rights and Complexity Theory' by Professor Steven Wheatley

27 April 2016

Time: 12:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: Room 313, Third Floor, Law Building, Queen Mary University of London, E1 4NS Mile End Road, United Kingdom

Professor Steven Wheatley (University of Lancaster) will deliver a seminar on 'Human Rights and Complexity Theory' with commentary from Professor Richard Nobles (Queen Mary).

This event is hosted by the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context (CLSGC) at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).


How should we understand the function of human rights in the world? Specifically how should we understand the influence of human rights on international law? The argument developed in this talk is that we should look to systems theory in general and complexity theory in particular to develop a robust and coherent methodological scaffolding around which we can build our arguments. Complexity theory suggests that we should understand the international law system as an emergent phenomenon: the result of the actions and reactions of states and other international law actors. Unlike the closed systems theories associated with the works of Niklas Luhmann, complexity allows for external factors to influence the law system – in this case the idea (or ideology) of human rights. Looking specifically at the customary international law, we can observe the ways in which this idea, along with other ideas (or ideologies), such as sovereignty, influences the development of international law resulting in the emergence of a distinctive body of international human rights law.


For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.

How to book

This event is free but prior booking is required. Register online via Eventbrite.


For more information on this event, please email

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