The End of Law
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The End of Law

How Law’s Claims Relate to Law’s Aims

David McIlroy

The End of Law applies Augustine’s questions to modern legal philosophy as well as offering a critical theory of natural law that draws on Augustine’s ideas. McIlroy argues that such a critical natural law theory is: realistic but not cynical about law’s relationship to justice and to violence, can diagnose ways in which law becomes deformed and pathological, and indicates that law is a necessary but insufficient instrument for the pursuit of justice. Positioning an examination of Augustine’s reflections on law in the context of his broader thought, McIlroy presents an alternative approach to natural law theory, drawing from critical theory, postmodern thought, and political theologies in conversation with Augustine.
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Chapter 9: The agony of the law

David McIlroy


For a variety of reasons, some of them structural, the conventions and norms of a legal system can never capture and domesticate the concept of justice. Justice always exceeds its application in law. The agony of the law is that the tools of the law cannot do justice to justice. Many legal systems fail to deliver the shallow justice they promise. The conceptions of deep justice within a legal system conflict and can be incoherent. Constructing a critique of law from the true justice of a utopia is totalitarian. Confining oneself to an immanent critique fails to recognize when revolutionary change is required. Augustine founded his critique of the Pax Romana in a transcendental true justice which could not be fully instantiated. Critical natural law theory focuses on the victims of injustice, it regards law is imperfectible, but seeks relative movements towards truer justice.

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