Sunday, November 27, 2005

Law and Society

Not law or lawyers, but society, gives fighting advantage to the propertied.
Karl Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush, p. 145
Considering all the bad public image lawyers get (and in most cases I'd imagine it is a thorough deserved reputation), this quote could just seem to be the knee jerk defence of an offended lawyer. However, I reckon Llewellyn has a point, in so far as he enables us to see the complex interrelations between law and society (although the conceptual separation of the two is not necessarily something I'd advocate).

I think that, as it goes, what Llewellyn says is spot on. If one wishes to identify the reasons why certain members of 'society' ('the propertied') are systemically and structurally favoured it seems foolish to simply look at law. Such domination is rooted in the deep structure of a particular material totality.

However, this being said I think that Llewellyn may be going a little bit too far in his assertion. Firstly, taking this position artificially separates 'law' from 'society'. This seems in opposition to the fact that Llewellyn's own writing posits the close link between the two. Secondly, such a statement ignores the important role that law and legal systems play in reproducing capitalist relations of production and protecting them. When one looks at a social formation as a historically constituted totality it is often foolish to separate production and reproduction in such a rigid way, as ultimately the two may be organic to eachother.

This is especially true of the legal form, insofar as it plays the vital role of interpellating people as legal subjects. Can one really imagine the capitalist mode of production without some of the vital legal relations it throws up (contract, property etc.). This is especially true when looks at the close reciprocal relation between the relations of production and the law. Law serves to butress protect, and in some instances even create a given set of productive relations. In this sense though we can and should give primacy to 'society', it is foolish to think that it does all the work. Law and society exist in a dialetical, reciprocal relation, with (to coin a phrase) society causing in dominance.

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