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Legal Conversation as Signifier

Jan M. Broekman and Frank Fleerackers

Conversation and argument concerning laws and legal situations take place throughout society and at all levels, yet the language of these conversations differs greatly from that of the courtroom. This insightful book considers the gap between everyday discussion about law and the artificial, technical language developed by lawyers, judges and other legal specialists. In doing so, it explores the intriguing possibilities for future synthesis, a problem often neglected by legal theory.
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Chapter 3: Compliance and the radical

Jan M. Broekman and Frank Fleerackers


Law is generally understood as a harmonious and concordant discourse. This chapter exposes the opposite insight at levels of language, social sciences, legal theory and jurisprudence. All mark one specific center of interest in law: its requirement of obedience. To obey the law is not a simple affair: law changes quickly in modern times and is varied in its past; it requires a specific mentality and brings special types of conversation to the fore, which differ in accordance with the place they take, either in law’s institutional boundaries or outside them. The slogan ‘law without state’ is discussed in this context since it profiles the ‘talking about law’ on the street and also marks semiotic perspectives on legal meaning. The theme ‘law and conflict’ is closely connected to the slogan, and emphasizes the central role of harmony in law and life. That role also underlines the urgency to determine the place of conflict in law as understood at a distance to ethical viewpoints and traditions. The constitutive power of a master-narrative (Lyotard) suggests an obedience to law that reaches beyond traditional ethical motivation although it remains classified as a verbal master-narrative. The archaeologist Bednarik’s 1993 introduction of the cupules implies that non-verbal master-narratives also exist, which could be qualified as pre-linguistic. But imagine computers hacking in a post-linguistic mood other computers to obtain data to provide for still other computers, of which nobody can know whether these will hack again others – and nobody knows where they exist on the globe. Are such events an act of terrorism or are they within the limits of a new obedience enforced by a post-linguistic master-narrative in which the concept of property has fundamentally changed? Keywords Law’s discordances, Legal institutions, Law without State, Post-linguistic, Master-narratives

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