Midst the rising clamor of voices declaring that the law is dead in the US, five original essays discuss the law's problems and prospects in the context of feminism, postmodernism, and other current movements and theories.
Today the language of human rights, if not human rights themselves, is nearly universal. Human Rights brings together essays that attend to both the allure and criticism of human rights. They examine contestation and contingency in today's human rights politics and help us rethink some of the basic concepts of human rights. Questions addressed in Human Rights include: Can national self-determination be reconciled with human rights? Can human rights be advanced without thwarting efforts to develop indigenous legal traditions? How are the forces of modernization associated with globalization transforming our understanding of human dignity and personal autonomy? What does it mean to talk about culture and cultural choice? Is the protection of culture and cultural choice an important value in human rights discourse? How do human rights figure in local political contests and how are those contests, in turn, shaped by the spread of capitalism and market values? What contingencies shape the implementation of human rights in societies without a strong tradition of adherence to the rule of law? What are the conditions under which human rights claims are advanced and under which nations respond to their appeal?
Running through the history of jurisprudence and legal theory is a recurring concern about the connections between law and justice and about the ways law is implicated in injustice. In earlier times law and justice were viewed as virtually synonymous. Experience, however, has taught us that, in fact, injustice may be supported by law. Nonetheless, the belief remains that justice is the special concern of law. Commentators from Plato to Derrida have called law to account in the name of justice, asked that law provide a language of justice, and demanded that it promote the attainment of justice. The justice that is usually spoken about in these commentaries is elusive, if not illusory, and disconnected from the embodied practice of law. Furthermore, the very meaning of justice, especially as it relates to law, is in dispute. Justice may refer to distributional issues or it may involve primarily procedural questions, impartiality in judgment or punishment and recompense. The essays collected inJustice and Injustice in Law and Legal Theoryseek to remedy this uncertainty about the meaning of justice and its disembodied quality, by embedding inquiry about justice in an examination of law's daily practices, its institutional arrangements, and its engagement with particular issues at particular moments in time. The essays examine the relationship between law and justice and injustice in specific issues and practices and, in doing so, make the question of justice come alive as a concrete political question. They draw on the disciplines of history, law, anthropology, and political science. Contributors to this volume include Nancy Coot, Joshua Coven, Robert Gorton, Frank Michelin, and Michael Tossing. Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
The subject of law in everyday life is timely in theory and in practice. The essays collected here are stimulating for the very different ways in which they reconfigure the meanings of 'the law' as cultural practice, and 'the everyday' as a cultural domain in which the state expresses a range of interests and engagements. Readers looking for an introduction to this topic will come away from the book with a clear sense of the varied voices and modes of inquiry now involved in sociolegal studies, and what distinguishes them. More experienced readers will appreciate the book's meticulous reconsideration of the instrumentalities, agencies, and constructedness of law.
The concept of culture is troublingly vague and, at the same time, hotly contested, and law's relations to culture are as complex, varied and disputed as the concept of culture itself. The concept of the traditional, unified, reified, civilizing idea of culture has come under attack. The growth of cultural studies has played an important role in redefining culture by including popular culture and questions of social stratification, power and social conflict. Law and legal studies are relative latecomers to cultural studies. As scholars have come to see law as not something apart from culture and society, they have begun to explore the connections between law and culture. Focusing on the production, interpretation, consumption and circulation of legal meaning, these scholars suggest that law is inseparable from the interests, goals and understandings that deeply shape or compromise social life. Against this background, Law in the Domains of Culture brings the insights and approaches of cultural studies to law and tries to secure for law a place in cultural analysis. This book provides a sampling of significant theoretical issues in the cultural analysis of law and illustrates some of those issues in provocative examples of the genre. Law in the Domains of Culture is designed to encourage the still tentative efforts to forge a new interdisciplinary synthesis, cultural studies of law.
The idea of legal rights today enjoys virtually universal appeal, yet all too often the meaning and significance of rights are poorly understood. The purpose of this volume is to clarify the subject of legal rights by drawing on both historical and philosophical legal scholarship to bridge the gap between these two genres--a gap that has divorced abstract and normative treatments of rights from an understanding of their particular social and cultural contexts. Legal Rights: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives shows that the meaning and extent of rights has been dramatically expanded in this century, though along with the widespread and flourishing popularity of rights, voices of criticism have increasingly been raised. The authors take up the question of the foundation of rights and explore the postmodern challenges to efforts to ground rights outside of history and language. Drawing rich historical analysis and careful philosophical inquiry into productive dialogue, this book explores the many facets of rights at the end of the twentieth century. In these essays, potentially abstract debates come alive as they are related to the struggles of real people attempting to cope with, and improve, their living conditions. The significance of legal rights is measured not just in terms of philosophical categories or as a collection of histories, but as they are experienced in the lives of men and women seeking to come to terms with rights in contemporary life.