Research Prizes

Josse G. Klijnsma
PhD dissertation:
Contract Law as Fairness. A Rawlsian Perspective on the Position of SMEs in European contract law.

Supervisor: professor M.W. Hesselink
Co-supervisor: dr C. Mak
Nomination: University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Law

Report of the Selection Committee
Contract law protects consumers in all sorts of ways, because they find themselves in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis the counterparty. A company can no longer refer to the “small print” in an agreement, even though a customer may have signed it. Consumer protection does not apply to natural persons, however. How fair is that if one considers that many companies are very small and differ very little from consumers? Drawing on the well-known theories of American philosopher John Rawls, the author reviews this distinction, which also exists in European contract law. Josse Klijnsma has devised a model to regulate the position of small and medium-sized enterprises in a fair way. A refreshing book that brings together private law and the philosophy of law – and that is an uncommon combination. The book is written in a concise, lucid style, and that is – in the opinion of the committee – notable for a legal thesis.

Josse Klijnsma (Amsterdam, 1986) studied Law and Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). After completing both of his Bachelor degrees, he joined an exchange programme with NYU School of Law. In 2010 he completed a Master in European Private Law, and in 2012 he completed his Master in Philosophy - both cum laude – at the University of Amsterdam. From 2011 to 2014 he was a research assistant at the Centre for the Study of European Contract Law at the University of Amsterdam. During this period he spent half a year as a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School. His doctoral research focused on the position of small and medium-sized enterprises in European contract law from the perspective of philosopher John Rawls. Klijnsma uses the political philosophy of Rawls, Justice as Fairness, to normatively assess the rules of European contract law. In June 2014 he defended his doctoral thesis cum laude at the UvA. Since September 2014 he has worked as a lawyer for De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in Amsterdam.