1st Edition

Law and Irresponsibility On the Legitimation of Human Suffering

By Scott Veitch Copyright 2007
    168 Pages
    by Routledge-Cavendish

    168 Pages
    by Routledge-Cavendish

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    Law is widely assumed to provide contemporary society with its most important means of organizing responsibility. Across a broad range of areas of social life – from the activities of states and citizens, to work, business and private relationships – it is understood that legal regulation plays a crucial role in defining and limiting responsibilities. But Law and Irresponsibility pursues the opposite view: it explores how law organizes irresponsibility.

    With a particular focus on large-scale harms – including extensive human rights violations, forms of colonialism, and environmental or nuclear devastation – this book analyzes the ways in which law legitimates human suffering by demonstrating how legal institutions operate as much to deflect responsibility for harms suffered as to acknowledge them. Drawing on a series of case studies, it shows not only how law facilitates the dispersal and disavowal of responsibility, but how it does so in consistent and patterned ways.

    Irresponsibility is organized, and its organization is traced here to the legal forms, and the social and political conditions, that sustain ‘our’ complicity in human suffering.

    This innovative and interdisciplinary book provides a radical challenge to conventional thinking about law and legal institutions. It will be of considerable interest to those working in law, political and legal theory, sociology and moral philosophy.


    Introduction.  The Disavowals of Legality.  Social Structures and the Dispersal of Responsibilities.  The Laws of Irresponsibility.  Legalising Global Disaster.  Complicity in Organised Irresponsibility.  Conclusion


    Scott Veitch

    'One of the most important texts in legal theory of the last decade.The public sphere demands that we combine, as effectively as possible, awareness of the inevitability of our limitations with the courage and realism of responsiveness. Veitch has taken us a great deal forward in the right direction. To ignore his work, to fail to build on his insights and warnings, would be to disavow the responsibility of scholarship.' - Maksymilian Del Mar,Global Law Books, July 2008

    '[Law and Irresponsibility] is a strong theoretical contribution to the study of law and behavior and stands as a meaningful and innovative contribution to the discipline.' - Kevin M. Wagner, Law and Politics Book Review, Vol. 18 No. 10 (October 2008)

    'It is powerful, both in its argument and in its prose. It is a clever book, wide-ranging and passionate; a combination of sophisticated analysis and eloquent jeremiad' - Martin Krygier, the Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy

    'Law and Irresponsibility is written with engaging energy and passion. Its frequent and vivid examples make it highly readable notwithstanding the abstract nature of its central thesis.' - Nicola Lacey, Social & Legal Studies, 2009; 18

    "an important and elegantly written book" - Emmanuel Melissaris, Edinburgh Law Review (2009) Vol 13