Political Technology and the Erosion of the Rule of Law

Political Technology and the Erosion of the Rule of Law

Normalizing the State of Exception

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Günter Frankenberg

This timely volume by distinguished scholar Günter Frankenberg offers a sophisticated analysis and sharp critique of the reactions of nations such as the US, Great Britain and Germany to perceived terrorist threats, organized crime actions and other political emergencies that have occurred in recent years.

Chapter 2: Visions of political technology

Günter Frankenberg

Subjects: law - academic, constitutional and administrative law, legal philosophy, legal theory, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, terrorism and security


Legal and political techniques of governing are translated into spoken words and written texts. We usually represent, execute, justify or criticize these techniques by dint of language and script. It is rarely observed that throughout history they have also found pictorial expression. To introduce the more elaborate conceptual discussion that will follow, in this chapter I want to present some of the visions and images that illustrate the imagining of rule-law and Rechtsstaat and elucidate their conceptual dimension. At the beginning of modern theories of the state, there was Thomas Hobbes and, more precisely, what is undisputedly his most influential work ñ the Leviathan (1651). Some historians and political philosophers would argue for a different starting point, if this were considered important. In fact, when it comes to the origin of unbound state technology, one would need to think of Machiavelli's manual of power (The Prince, written in 1513 and published in 1552) or Jean Bodinís Six Livres de la RÈpublique (1576), which identify him as the initiator of the modern doctrine of sovereignty. The mystery posed by every beginning,namely the time before that it deconstructs, is not meant to be pursued further here. Because hardly anyone will dispute that the Leviathan, followed by the Elements of Law Natural and Politic (1640), belongs to the paramount line of powerful historical myths dealing with state formation and the notions of political technology.

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