Liberia and the Dialectic of Law: Critical Theory, Pluralism, and the Rule of Law, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Liberia and the Dialectic of Law

Critical Theory, Pluralism, and the Rule of Law, 1st Edition

By Shane Chalmers


181 pages

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pub: 2018-05-24
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It is the condition of modernity that an institution cannot depend on a god, tradition, or any other transcendental source to secure its foundations, which thereby come to rest upon – or rather in, and through – its subjects. Never wholly separated from its subjects, and yet never identical with them: this contradictory condition provides a way of seeing how modern law gives form to life, and how law takes form, enlivened by its subjects. By driving Theodor Adorno’s dialectical philosophy into the concept of law, the book shows how this contradictory condition enables law to become instituted in ways that are hostile to its subjects, but also how law remains open to its subjects, and thus disposed towards transformation. To flesh out an understanding of this contradiction, the book examines the making and remaking of “Liberia”, from its conception as an idea of liberty at the beginning of the nineteenth century to its reconstruction at the beginning of the twenty-first with the assistance of an international intervention to “establish a state based on the rule of law”. In so doing, the book shows how law is at the epicentre of a colonising power in Liberia that renders subjects as mere objects; but at the same time, the book exposes the instability of this power, by showing how law is also enlivened by its subjects as it takes form in and through their lives and interactions. It is this fundamentally contradictory condition of law that ultimately denies power any absolute hold, leaving law open to the self-expression of its subjects.

Table of Contents







List of figures

Introduction Being detained


Chapter 1 Negative dialectics

Chapter 2 The concept of law


Chapter 3 Civil death in the dominion of freedom

Chapter 4 A peace formidable to any eye

Chapter 5 Talking drums, talking back

Chapter 6 Facing the contradiction


Conclusion Law’s rule


Appendix: Interview list


About the Author

Shane Chalmers is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW / Essays
PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Critical Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism