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Access_open Imagining the Rule of Law in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Liberal Society and the Dialectic of the Clan

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 3/4 2013
Keywords clan, rule of law, Albert Venn Dicey, Walter Scott, legal memory
Authors Dr. Mark S. Weiner
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this essay, I provide a historical and theoretical framework for understanding the imaginative relation between the liberal rule of law and the kin-based form of socio-legal organization I call ‘the rule of the clan’ – a classic example of law created ‘from below’. Specifically, I believe that a culturalist disciplinary perspective reveals that the modern liberal state and its more centralized rule of law always stand in an ironic, dialectical relation to the rule of the clan as a legal form. Liberal society, that is, nurtures itself through an anti-liberal utopian imaginary. This article provides an intellectual history backdrop for theorizing that dialectical relationship by examining two contrasting ways in which nineteenth-cen‍tu‍ry British intellectuals imagined the rule of law. Following the work of Charles Taylor and, more specifically in the legal field, Paul Kahn, my goal is to depict a social imaginary of modern liberalism that has been neglected within contemporary liberal theory – and, in doing so, pro‍vi‍de a way to appreciate the cultural foundations of liberal legality. The article considers the stories that nineteenth-century British intellectuals told about the relation between the rule of law and the rule of the clan as a way to think about the rule of law today. It thus tacks between three different shores: the world of legal pluralism (the rule of the clan), the world of nineteenth-cen‍tu‍ry British analysis of the rule of the clan and the contemporary relation between culture and modern liberal society.


Dr. Mark S. Weiner
Mark S. Weiner is author of Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), recipient of the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association, and Americans without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship (New York: New York University Press, 2006), winner of the President’s Book Award of the Social Science History Association. He received an A.B. in American Studies from Stanford University; a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University; and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He blogs at Worlds of Law (www.worldsoflaw.com).
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