Meditating comparisons, or the question of comparative law

Abstract

Many today claim that, after WWII, the fall of the Berlin wall and, now, 9/11, the changing nature of nation states, democracy, and the law can no longer be sensibly ignored. How can comparative law contribute to such an important debate? In this essay, I argue that one way to contribute to the debate over the changing nature of nation states, democracy, and the law would be to engage in 'poetic comparisons' of law's many domains. What then are poetic comparisons of law, and what do they invite us to do? Learning from Martin Heidegger's life-long advocacy of meditating thinking, poetic comparisons of law are 'meditating comparisons'. Neither poetry nor any such form of representational thought, poetic comparisons of law encourage us to begin by thinking legal thinking afresh and, in particular, by thinking again the long-forgotten question of comparative law - what 'is' comparative law? A radical answer to such a question clearly shows how it is only by bringing language as well as difference firmly at the centre stage of comparative analysis that we may be able ever again to conduct meaningul comparisons in today's rapidly changing societies. Poetic comparisons of law, however, take language and difference to mean something quite unlike their ordinary, everyday meaning.

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