The cultural study of law: Reconstructing legal scholarship

Abstract
Belief in the rule of law characterizes our society, our political order, and even our identity as citizens. Despite its importance, this fundamental feature of our common life has not been studied from a cultural perspective. The Cultural Study of Law is the first full examination of what it means to conduct a modern intellectual inquiry into the culture of law. To conduct a genuine study of our legal culture, we must step outside the boundaries of legal practice, forgo the ambition of reform, and instead interpret the founding myths and necessary beliefs that constitute the rule of law. Current legal scholarship can be compared to the study of Christianity around the turn of the century, when the study of religion was not a distinct intellectual discipline but an inseparable part of religious practice. An intellectually rigorous study of religion could not emerge until scholars ceased to assume the truth of religion and focused instead on the character of religious belief. Similarly, contemporary legal scholars assume the truth of the beliefs characteristic of legal practice: beliefs, for example, in the nature of authority, the character of legal reasoning, and the identity of the judge. They too attempt to extend the domain of law?s rule both here and abroad. Drawing on philosophers from Plato to Foucault, cultural anthropologists and historians such as Clifford Geertz and Perry Miller, Kahn outlines the conceptual tools necessary for a cultural study of law. He analyzes the concepts of time, space, citizen, judge, sovereignty, and theory within the culture of law?s rule and goes on to consider the methodological problems entailed in stripping the study of law of its reformists ambitions.
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