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Research institute CSECL has a new name since 1 January: ACT, Amsterdam Centre for Transformative Private Law. A new name also includes a new identity, a new direction, and new people. Marija Bartl talks about the recent change of direction.

Marija Bartl is Professor Transformative Private Law and Director of ACT.

Why this name change? 

'The new identity was long in the making. The old name, Centre for the Study of European Contract Law, did not do justice to either the breadth or orientation of our scholarship. Not only did our research reach far beyond the boundaries of contract law, but we also needed a name that would better represent the transdisciplinary and contextual nature of our scholarship. The new name then aims to showcase our existing strengths, while at the same time presenting a more programmatic mission for the group.'

What does ACT stand for?

'We are all convinced that rules of private law – that is corporate law, contract law, finance, consumer law, labour law, insolvency law etc.– do more than just solve “technical’ disputes among private parties. They serve to shape and, often, entrench economic and social models, including our current – increasingly unsustainable – model of competitiveness and limitless growth. Even if each of us will have a somewhat different understanding of the ways to achieve transformation, or the role of private law within it, my sense is that we share a general direction: toward environmental sustainability, toward social justice and equality, toward a just digital economy, and toward sustainable monetary and financial systems. These are also themes that we find in the scholarship of the group members.'

What are the differences with CSECL? 

'If, in the CSECL, we have seen our task to be investigating ‘private law in Europe’, studying European private laws, alongside national private laws, as the building blocks of European economy and society, the ACT starts from the four aforementioned challenges, which are global, and explores how national and European private laws not only produce those global challenges but also how they can transform them. The group continues to distinguish itself by a particular epistemology that is both multi-disciplinary and contextual, which I believe is one of our major strengths.'

Are there personnel changes as well? 

'In terms of people, the past year was eventful: of course, the departure of Martijn Hesselink (EUI), which meant saying goodbye to both an exceptional private law scholar and a very dear colleague, was keenly felt. My taking over of the directorship presented hopefully a good mixture of continuity and discontinuity in the intellectual stewardship of the group. Otherwise, the group has further grown considerably. New colleagues have joined within the framework of the Sustainable Global Economic Law project (e.g. Yannick van den Berg, Debadatta Bose, Klaas H. Eller), we are still hiring within the framework of my ERC project, and a new Marie Curie researcher (Antonio Davola) will join us from autumn 2020. Some of our excellent PhDs have joined as faculty  (Laura Burgers, Anna van Duin, Mia Junuzovic, Aart Jonkers) and we have several new PhDs/Judooz joining the group (Wiepke Bartstra, Bodine Kramer and Maryam Malakotipour).'

Where does ACT want to go? What are your long-term goals? 

'We see ACT as one of the leading and most ambitious research groups on private law in Europe and worldwide, which sets the agenda of the academic debate in this field. In order to do so, we bring insights from different disciplines to bear on the questions of private law and employ a broad array of methodological approaches in order to address these questions satisfactorily. Importantly, we see the insights into private law as one crucial way of contributing to broader academic and societal debates on questions of justice and sustainability.'