Law and Humanities: Taking a Step Sideways

One thing will be stressed again and again by the law professor during his introductory course: law is the discipline of rules which are recognized and sanctioned by the state.

Law students will be told  early in their education that they are to become part of  a caste of secular priests charged with translating everyday facts into legal concepts. They are about to learn how to give legal consequences to legal facts.

As lawyers, we tend to see ourselves as depositors of a science of law, a special capacity to understand cases and to predict with certainty the outcomes of legal problems . This exercise in prediction makes lawyers objective seers to the extent that they pretend to interpret neutrally and the legal language.

In the past, lawyers eschewed the idea of a neutral law and insisted on the ideas of justice and virtue. This position seems to have completely lost currency today.

Law and Humanities seems to have the potential to reveal again that law is discursive, a manipulation of language. It can thus been studied as such (and critiqued as such). Some hope that such a conception will once again allow lawyers to re-imagine their role as purveyors of legal meaning in society as including the search for justice.

Lawyers have, however, shown a remarkable capacity for cognitive dissonance. It would not be surprising if humanities were to be recycled into a tool preparing young minds for the demands of the job market, a veneer of self-reflexivity and liberalism on hired guns in the service of power.


One thought on “Law and Humanities: Taking a Step Sideways

  1. ahd2 says:

    I would like to add a small contribution to this post with a short follow-up comment on the lawyers’ “remarkable capacity for cognitive dissonance”.
    “Cognitive dissonance” refers to the feeling of discomfort experienced because of contradictory beliefs, ideas or values. In response to that feeling, people will adapt their behavior or scale of values in order to reach internal consistency. This is a cause of “variable-geometry” moral, probably the most common reproach made to lawyers. In my opinion, Law and Humanities’ aim is precisely to encourage internal consistency by forcing the lawyer’s reflection on first, the Law but also on himself. Reflexion about the law should necessarily trigger the lawyer’s self-reflection and the attitude to adopt towards it. Furthermore, consistency with the Law and Humanities ethos also requires repeated self-examination and constant awareness about what is going on in the life of Law. Therefore, recuperation of the Law & Humanities scholarship by the “Market” should only lead either, to a slow and underground moralization of the so-called market or to acknowledge its failure.

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