The Oldest Social Science? Configurations of Law and Modernity

By W. T. Murphy | Go to book overview

Preface

This book aims to simplify rather than obscure a number of issues which are central to the shifting structures of the relations between law and society. I have directed my efforts in preparing this volume towards what I perceive to be as direct a statement of my arguments as possible. Whether or not what I achieve possesses clarity, it is also obvious enough that how substantial my arguments are seen to be will depend on the starting point from which a reader approaches them.

Parts of this volume have been published before and partial incorporation of this material appears here in dispersed form with various modifications: see Murphy, 'The Bondage of Freedom'; 'As If'; 'Weber and the Rationalisation of Law'. Passages from my forthcoming 'The Boundaries of the Legal' are also utilized. I have made particular use of Murphy, "The Oldest Social Science?", published in the Modern Law Review, and I have borrowed from this the main title of this volume, since it still seems to capture -- with its question mark! -- the essential or core argument which I wish here to advance.

This book is not aimed at advancing a 'discipline' for its own sake -- readers will find a mélange of sociology, jurisprudence, economics, history, and theology, and I recognize that this approach will be too eclectic or scatter-brained for some tastes which are now current. A serious assumption underpins this apparent leger-de-main: this is that the disciplinary boundaries which have played so important a role in constructing the frameworks through which we know this world are crumbling. This is visible both in institutions and even (though this is a different point) in life itself. But I take a rather different view of the implications of these widely recognized processes for the position and even future of law than many other commentators. In so far as the core institutions which we associate with the idea and the reality of law survive in the future (and none of that can be guaranteed, in any practicable way I can think of), it will be within a certain enclave within society as a whole. This book is devoted to unravelling the complexity of this situation while seeking to minimize complexity in the presentation of these questions. Like many other writers at the present time, I acknowledge the importance of seeking to present difficult and sometimes academically over-elaborated issues in a more simple format, in order to reach a wider audience, and in order to try to overcome the

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