Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice

Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice

Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice

Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice


Tort law, a fundamental building block of every legal system, features prominently in mass culture and political debates. As this pioneering anthology reveals, tort law is not simply a collection of legal rules and procedures, but a set of cultural responses to the broader problems of risk, injury, assignment of responsibility, compensation, valuation, and obligation.

Examining tort law as a cultural phenomenon and a form of cultural practice, this work makes explicit comparisons of tort law across space and time, looking at the United States, Europe, and Asia in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. It draws on theories and methods from law, sociology, political science, and anthropology to offer a truly interdisciplinary, pathbreaking view. Ultimately, tort law, the authors show, nests within a larger web of relationships and shared discursive conventions that organize social life.


The chapters in this book examine tort law's norms, institutions, and procedures as cultural practices. Few observers, regardless of their academic background, their role in relation to tort law, or their political leanings, would challenge the assertion that tort law is a cultural phenomenon. Nor are they likely to reject our working proposition that tort law plays a role in constituting the very cultural fabric in which it is embedded. Yet, despite this consensus, it is surprising to discover that a rigorous exploration of tort law's cultural dimensions has rarely been attempted and that there is virtually no agreement across disciplines as to how such a study should be conducted. Tort law as a form of cultural practice has remained terra incognita. Even the pathways into this unexplored territory are but dimly perceived.

In this volume, a group of leading legal scholars and social scientists has embarked on a voyage of exploration. Drawing on the pioneering work of important precursors, these authors have begun to map the uncharted land. Their work not only identifies useful roadways for those who might follow, but it also demonstrates a variety of techniques by which the journey might be attempted. This collection makes no claim of completeness nor does it claim to have identified a single superior methodology or discipline. Rather, it identifies a large, potentially important area of inquiry and offers some illustrative attempts by a talented group of scholars to reveal the riches that future explorers might discover there.

This initial foray has two important features. First, it is multidisciplinary. the contributors come from different academic fields and departments, including . . .

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