Reading through the Law & Humanities corpus of texts brought about a slight but essential, at least to me, change in the relationship I have towards law. Coming from a civil law background, I always felt like law was imposed upon me. I had to learn “how law is and how to apply it accordingly”, whether I liked it or not. In this sense, it is possible to say I adopted an attitude of “double surrender” as David Kennedy would call it. Law has to be cold, amoral and/or immoral. Law is not about being just, law is about law.
Now, law is no longer something I endure, passively but a subject of which I have a better understanding and therefore, a subject I can actively engage with and that I can accept, or not. I find this of particular importance as an aspiring international human rights lawyer because of the strong ideological stance it involves.
By being aware of the ontological contingency of law, I can embrace a more ethical position by choosing to adhere to it or not. Acknowledgment of this ideological constraint, on the other hand, encourage me, if not force me, to adopt an attitude receptive to challenges and admit the possibility that my principles might not be the same or understood differently by others. Having said that, I do not think it forces me to sink into strict relativism but rather that it enables me to make a conscious and enlightened choice as to what principles I chose to abide to. From an inner perspective, it changes the way I will interact with “others”, it means that my attitude cannot be dogmatic anymore for it would defeat, and in fact, contradict the very idea of universalism.
Indeed, if human rights and liberal values are understood as a rebellion (révolte, in French) – in an “camusian” sense- against the oppression of the absolutist power, and aim ultimately to “free the whole humanity”, it necessarily entails the risk of “losing itself”: “A rebellion that loses the truth of its origins will give birth to a close totality, universal crime, an aristocracy of cynicism and a wish for apocalypse” ( Albert Camus, “L’Homme révolté”).