Law at the right time: A plea for slow law in hasty times

Bart van Klink*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


According to Willem Witteveen, ‘[s]low law is the true art of legislating’. 1 Law seems to be either too late or too soon, but never ‘in time’. It is often too late, because at the very moment that a statute is promulgated, after a lengthy legislative process, the social norms codified in the law may have changed. In adjudication, there is a growing pressure on judges to act quicker, so that more cases are decided in less time. 2 Increasingly, the legal forms that structure the process of law-making and law application are seen as a hindrance to what people seem to desire: justice on direct demand. As Ernst Jünger observes: ‘and even the fastest beat of legislation lags behind the march of life, which in each moment demands its right’. 3 At the same time, law sometimes appears to come too soon. People are not always ready for the norms that the law offers. Legislation with a high aspirational character, such as non-discrimination law or environmental law aiming at sustainable development, often meets with resistance in society. Moreover, the legislature is sometimes accused of issuing legislation too quickly, without having taken enough time for deliberation and reflection. As a result, the legislation may be of a bad quality, as for instance the phenomenon of ‘ad hoc legislation’ shows. 4.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTemporal Boundaries of Law and Politics
Subtitle of host publicationTime Out of Joint
EditorsLuigi Corrias, Lyana Francot
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781351103473
ISBN (Print)9781138693975
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameLaw and Politics: Continental Perspectives


  • legislation theory
  • legal positivism
  • legal change


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