Chapter 1: The rule of law as a social imaginary
The rule of law does not promise results so much as it promises an approach, a process, a practice of reason-giving, a set of argumentative conventions. (Torke 2001, p. 1450) Studying the law we become part of it. The consequence is that our deepest cultural commitment - the commitment to the rule of law - remains one of the least explored elements of our common life. (Kahn 1999, p. 2) Such a high degree of consensus on the virtues of the rule of law is possible because of relative vagueness as to its meaning. (Chesterman 2008a, p. 3) As I hope I have demonstrated in the Introduction, the idea of the rule of law is often appealed to in discussions of, and deliberations about, politics. Now I want to suggest that one useful way of understanding the contemporary resonance of the rule of law is to regard it is a 'social imaginary'. Charles Taylor's idea of the 'social imaginary' stems from his focus on the 'way ordinary people "imagine" their social surroundings' carried in 'images, stories and legends'; he focuses on ideas that are shared by 'large groups of people, if not the whole of society'; and on those ideas that represent a 'common understanding that makes possible common practices and a widely shared sense of legitimacy' (Taylor 2004, p. 23); a social imaginary is a particular form of common sense.