Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Introductions, always difficult for me, the shifting eyes, the inane conversational niceties, the inevitable political comment that leaves them looking vaguely bewildered. Thankfully that won’t be so much of a problem here, so I’ll just get on with it. This blog will primarily exist as a receptacle for my occasional thoughts on that most exciting of disciplines – law.

Firstly, a very brief description of myself, I am a second year law student at the British centre of the ruling class, Cambridge University, hopefully I won’t be joining them any time soon. Throughout this blog a number of theoretical influences will no doubt come to light, so it’s best to explain them all straight away. My primary influences stem from the Marxist tradition, so this is, obviously, Marx himself, Evgeny Pashukanis (Bolshevik legal theorist), Franz Neumann and Otto Kirchheimer (members of the Frankfurt School and the SPD), Alan Hunt (although I’m not a huge fan of his), China Miéville (his approach to international law is exemplary) and B.S. Chimni. Aside from these legally specific people there’s also a strong hint of Gramsci, Marcuse, Lenin, Mao, Bettleheim, Balibar and Lukács (who has an interesting, if Weberian, approach to law in History and Class Consciousness). Outside of the Marxist tradition I have an interest in the Critical Legal Studies movement (Duncan Kennedy, Karl Klare, Mark Tushnet and Marti Koskiemmi spring to mind) and through them I’ve recently begun to research the legal realists (so far I like what I hear). Alan Norrie (a legal academic from King’s College London) is another influence, even if I feel he needs supplementing. In fact, in terms of “supplementation” I think that a synthesis of all my interests is both possible and desirable, as I’ll outline later I feel that all of the non-Marxists could do with being integrated into a Marxian framework, and all of the Marxists need to be integrated with the thought of Pashukanis.

Obviously influences are not just positive, and one’s thought can develop through the negation of other’s too. To this end I’d perhaps say my other influences are E.P. Thompson (yes after Whigs and Hunters he is, in my opinion, somewhat apostate), Andrew Ashworth (who wrote an excellent criminal law textbook (responsible for my sole first in the first year exams) – a supreme legal subjectivist, Joseph Raz (and the entire “Rule of Law” claptrap he represents), Alan Hunt and the Crits (yes it cuts both ways – just accept it).

So what sort of thing will be I addressing? Stuff like “what is law?”, “can indeterminacy (and therefore legal realism) be integrated into a Marxian framework?”, “why have judges ended up defending our rights in the UK?”, “can law be progressive?”, “can law transcend capitalism?”. I’ll also be looking at the most basic problems of Marxian legal theory, such as the property problem (does the economic base determine the legal superstructure), how class interests are translated into law, repressive tolerance, the role of law post-capitalism. Most importantly, and hopefully running through this like a red-thread, will be the attempt to develop a comprehensive Marxian jurisprudence through an integration of all of these thinkers and an elucidation of the general theory within concrete material circumstances. This will obviously involve various levels of materiality and abstraction, but as a subject not often tackled within the Marxian oeuvre I think it could well be interesting (if only for me)…Oh and I think I’ll have some pops at Norman Geras too.

As for the title of this thing (“Law and Disorder”) it’s not primarily some attempt at a witticism, it is rather a description of the essence of law. I think this is best expressed by Pashukanis in his General Theory of Law and Marxism:

“[D]eviation from a norm always constitutes their premise”

This, for me, encapsulates the dialectical brilliance of Pashukanis’ thought, and expresses beautifully his Marxism. Here the unity of opposites is concretely posited in a theoretical schema, where we see that “norms” are only necessary when normal conduct is deviated from, thus in a real sense law only exists with disorder, the normal conduct is only rendered "normal" by the deviation itself. Historically, then, law can only be seen as arising as a material solution to “disorder”, and to act as a corrective. But the continued existence of a law can surely only mean one thing, disorder still exists. Therefore the corollary of the law is not “order” because once one has “order” there is no need for law, law is dialectically generated by the continued presence of disorder. Therefore the fact that law does not extinguish itself also raises many questions as to its efficacy as a method of social regulation.

I chose this title therefore because it particularly expresses the essence of Pashukanis’ thought; his work is full of dialectical inversions of “common sense”, inversions that on further examination are theoretically correct.

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