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Legal Theory and the Media of Law

Thomas Vesting

As many disciplines in the humanities have experienced a focus on culture’s impact in recent decades, questions surrounding the significance of media such as writing, print and computer networks have become increasingly relevant. This book seeks to demonstrate that a media and cultural theory perspective can also be highly productive for legal theory.
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Chapter 15: The cultural framework of the liberal state

Thomas Vesting


The difference between common knowledge (as the expression of an objective structure) and the reflective, always individual appropriation of said knowledge (as the expression of a corresponding subjective practice) is not a fundamental anthropological condition found in all human cultures, but rather the result of a history of cultural evolution.1 But in accepting this premise and thinking of human evolution in terms of the evolution of man’s relationship to social institutions, one must avoid any sort of schematic or chronological division of this relationship’s history. Reflective, individual appropriation of rules is not a product of the Age of Enlightenment and the modern world as compared to earlier eras dominated by a (religiously integrated) comprehensive order and straightforward submission to its prescribed constraints. At the least, one must take into account that increased attention to the reflective, individual appropriation of rules may already be observed everywhere human beings have come into contact with the practice of writing. This applies to the scholars and scribes of the ancient Near East, the philosophers and poets of Greece, the orators of Rome, and even – or perhaps most especially – the Jewish religion of the book. Here the experience of a transcendent God who reveals himself once and for all in writing is bound to an “internal comprehension” of belief that makes faith in God and obedience to his commandments “matters of the heart.”2 This Jewish trend toward interiority was manifested in early Christianity in terms of a new preoccupation with...

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