The Oldest Social Science? Configurations of Law and Modernity

By W. T. Murphy | Go to book overview

2
Law and Society: The Penetrative Scheme and the Juridical Souf

[T]n the case of these contraries which we call good and evil, the rule of the logicians, that two contraries cannot be predicated at the same time of the same thing, does not hold . . . although no one can doubt that good and evil are contraries, not only can they exist at the same time, but evil cannot exist without good, or in anything that is not good. Good, however, can exist without evil. . . . And these two contraries are so far co-existent, that if good did not exist in what is evil, neither could evil exist; because corruption could not have either a place to dwell in, or a source to spring from, if there were nothing that could be corrupted; and nothing can be corrupted except what is good, for corruption is nothing else but the destruction of good.1

What is the nature of law? By this question I do not mean to ask in what its validity or justification lies. I am interested rather in its modes of application, in its presuppositions as it moves into action, and in, as it does, so, what it claims to know about the targets of its operations. All these 'its' are of course problematic. In many respects my resort to this usage is no more than a convenient rhetoric, a discursive economy to permit much ground to be covered relatively briefly. Yet although I have reservations about the lavish deployment of terms like 'The West' or 'Occidental Reason', there is, I think, a distinctive attitude to law, government, and society which forms in the West, crystallizes, and congeals out of a complex, even tortuous, history and which, once formed, acquires the status of an almost natural fact.2

* * *

I wish here to explore the close and complex relationship between the rise of Christianity and the emergence of certain deep presuppositions

____________________
1
Augustine, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love, 15-16. This contains many of the essentials of the argument against Manicheism.
2
For the contrasts between East and West, see especially Needham, The Great Titration. For 'the West', see the essays in Carrier (ed), Occidentalism; also the Tönnies plus hierarchy thesis elaborated progressively in Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus; Dumont, From Mandeville to Marx; Dumont, Essays on Individualism; most recently, Dumont, German Ideology.

-8-

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