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Book Symposium on Avihay Dorfman and Alon Harel, 'Reclaiming the Public' (CUP, forthcoming 2024).

Speakers: Prof Alon Harel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Professor Martin Loughlin (LSE), Professor Lorenzo Zucca (King's College London), and Professor Anat Scolnicov (University of Winchester).

Reclaiming the Public

'Reclaiming the Public' develops a theory of the public and investigates its theoretical and practical implications. It defends the non-instrumental value of ‘the public’ that resides in political institutions and the public officials that run them. Public institutions are not simply entities that act for the public; instead, they are public by virtue of speaking and acting in the name of the public.

We maintain that a certain idea of the public provides solid foundations for explaining the authority of the state and the normativity of law. We also show that this observation has not only theoretical significance but also legal and institutional implications. Those include the questions such as how to determine whether a norm is (or should be) constitutionalized or instead should be issued by legislatures or by courts. Those norm-producing institutions are not merely manufacturers of just or efficient norms; they are also designed to signify the grounds for these norms, e.g., to indicate whether these norms are reason-based norms or will-based norms. We also discuss questions concerning the limits of privatization and analyze the limits to the use of artificial intelligence in making public decisions. Privatization and the use of AI in decision-making distance the public from decision-making and thus undermine and erode public deliberation.

The key to the understanding of foundational questions about the state and law is an understanding of the distinct features of public institutions and public officials. Those should be accounted for by understanding what it means to speak in the name of the public.


Alon Harel is a professor at the law faculty, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a member of the Federmann Center for Rationality. Professor Harel specializes in political and legal philosophy. He is the author of Why Law Matters (OUP, 2014).

At this event

Liat Levanon

Reader in Evidence Law and Philosophy

Lorenzo Zucca

Professor of Law & Philosophy

Event details

SW1.17 (Ante Room), The Dickson Poon School of Law, Somerset House East Wing
Somerset House East Wing
Strand Campus, Strand, London WC2R 2LS