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Latour and the Passage of Law$
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Kyle McGee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748697908

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697908.001.0001

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date: 25 May 2020

Providing the Missing Link: Law after Latour’s Passage

Providing the Missing Link: Law after Latour’s Passage

(p.122) 5 Providing the Missing Link: Law after Latour’s Passage
Latour and the Passage of Law

Serge Gutwirth

Edinburgh University Press

A decisive philosophical intervention pitched at the level of law’s ontology, Gutwirth’s ‘Providing the Missing Link’ renders the difference between law as an institution or a body of norms and law as a mode of existence or value a crucial point of passage for any future philosophy of law. The first, Gutwirth argues, isn’t really law at all, but a political and organisational phenomenon easily confused with other norms and normative systems, from the rules of sporting groups or trade associations to ethical codes. The second is a far narrower concept keyed to the production of novel solutions under a particular kind of constraint and has nothing to do with the establishment of standards to be followed. Gutwirth’s finely tuned theorisation of law, which resonates with the work of Isabelle Stengers and Gilles Deleuze, sounds a laudable alarum designed to compel legal theorists to disencumber law of the formidable demands of the Rechtsstaat, while holding firmly to the evasive thread of legal enunciation. For Gutwirth, statements in the key of [LAW] require, as an absolute condition, the ‘anticipat[ion of] how and what a judge or court would decide’, and we are all jurists engaged in the practice of law, or at the least, we ‘speak legally’ and not merely ‘about law’, insofar as we projectively reason on the basis of that anticipation. The passage of law depends on this anticipatory structure, from which Gutwirth derives the signal operations of law (qualification, hesitation, imputation and so on), which work in essentially the same way as they did for the Romans. Law alone, he concludes – even after it has been unburdened of the political, economic, moral and other duties recklessly imposed on it – remains ‘the rightful and ultimate provider of stability and security’, as the loops of its unique temporality ensure that a resolution to any controversy can indeed be fashioned, even where every other mode fails.

Keywords:   Legal theory, Modes of existence, Bruno Latour, Ontology of law, Legal institution, Legal practice

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