Law and Critique

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 147–173 | Cite as

The proper: Discourses of purity

  • Margaret Davies


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  1. 2.
    Hohfeld, “Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning”, Yale Law Journal 23 (1913), 16–59; Yale Law Journal 26 (1917), 710–770. Some of the themes which I canvass here have also been considered by P. Parker in Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (London: Methuen, 1987), in particular Chapter 8, “The (Self-)Identity of the Literary Text: Property, Proper Place, and Proper Name in Wuthering Heights”.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Some recent works on the “disaggregation” of property entailed by Hohfeld’s famous analysis include J. Schroeder, “Chix Nix Bundle-O-Stix: A Feminist Critique of the Disaggregation of Property”, Michigan Law Review 93 (1994), 239–319; J.E. Penner, The Idea of Property in Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 23–25; B. Edgeworth, “Post-Property: A Postmodern Conception of Private Property”, University of New South Wales Law Journal 11 (1988), 87–116; T. Grey, “The Disintegration of Property”, Nomos 22 (1980), 69–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    M. Davies, Delimiting the Law: ‘Postmodernism’ and the Politics of Law (London: Pluto Press, 1996), ch.1: “The Limits of Law”.Google Scholar
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    P. Fitzpatrick, The Mythology of Modern Law (London: Routledge, 1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    J. Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel”, in Difference in Translation, ed. J. Graham (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 165–207; The Ear of the Other. Otobiography, Transference, Translation (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 100–104.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    J. Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1974), 26.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Some of this terrain is covered in a most interesting article by L. Secomb, “IVF: Reproducing the ‘Proper [Family] of Man’”, Australian Feminist Law Journal 4 (1994), 19–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), §111.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    See also the discussion of the etymology of “property” in C. Donohue, “The Future of the Concept of Property Predicted from Its Past”, Nomos 22 (1980), 28–68, 30.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    M. Oakeshott, On History and Other Essays (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), 163.Google Scholar
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    J. Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel”, supra n.6, explained elegantly and in some detail by Geoffrey Bennington in “Derridabase”, in G. Bennington and J. Derrida, Jacques Derrida, trld. G. Bennington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 174–179.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    M. Foucault, The Order of Things (London: Tavistock, 1970), 36.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    For an interesting neurological account see I. Rosenfeld, The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten (New York: Vintage, 1992), Chapter V,: “Multiple Personalities: What’s in a Name?”Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    S. Namjoshi, Building Babel (Melbourne: Spinifex, 1996).Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    A. Koestler, Bricks to Babel: Selected Writings With Comments by the Author (London: Hutchinson, 1980); see also C. Birch, On Purpose (Kingston, New South Wales: NSW University Press, 1990), ch.6, for a commentary on Koestler’s use of the Babel story.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    J. Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1954), Lecture V.Google Scholar
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    J. Raz, Practical Reason and Norms (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990, 2nd ed.).Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    J. Butler, “Against Proper Objects”, Differences 6 (1994), 1–26, at 6; see also J. Lattas, “Feminism as a Proper Name”, Australian Feminist Studies 9 (1989), 85–96; Lattas considers the political significance of the name “feminism”.Google Scholar
  19. 35.
    See, for example, J. Derrida, “My Chances/Mes Chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies” in Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature, ed. J.H. Smith and W. Kerrigan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 15–16; The Ear o f the Other, supra n.6; “Des Tours de Babel”, supra n.6; G. Bennington and J. Derrida, Jacques Derrida (Paris: Seuil, 1991), 100–110.Google Scholar
  20. 36.
    F. de Saussure, Course In General Linguistics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1959), 66.Google Scholar
  21. 40.
    J. Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. J.H. Burns and H.L.A. Hart (London: The Athlone Press, 1970), ch. XVI, s.26, n.1.Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    M. Radin, Reinterpreting Property (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993); idem, Contested Commodities (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  23. 43.
    “Hohfeld insisted that the res does not exist, in the same way as the Lacanian subject needs to insist that ‘Woman does not exist’”, J. Schroeder, “Virgin Territory: Margaret Radin’s Imagery of Personal Property as the Inviolate Feminine Body”, Minnesota Law Review 79 (1994), 55–171, at 63; see also Schroeder supra n.3; and “The Vestal and the Fasces: Property and the Feminine in Law and Psychoanalysis”, Cardozo Law Review 16 (1995), 805–924.Google Scholar
  24. 49.
    F. Cohen, “Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach”, Columbia Law Review 35 (1935), 809. See also K. Vandevelde, “The New Property of the Nineteenth Century: The Development of the Modern Concept of Property”, Buffalo Law Review 29 (1980), 325–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 50.
    For a discussion of this dimension of intellectual property see P. Drahos, The Philosophy of Intellectual Property (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1997).Google Scholar
  26. 51.
    Ibid., at 134.Google Scholar
  27. 54.
    J. Nedelsky, “Law, Boundaries, and the Bounded Self”, in Law and the Order of Culture, ed. R. Post (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 162–189.Google Scholar
  28. 55.
    J. Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), ch.V. See also L. Clarke, “Women and John Locke; or, Who Owns the Apples in the Garden of Eden”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 7 (1977), 699–724. The literature on self- and body-ownership is too vast to cite in detail here, but see: C. Farsides, “Body Ownership”, in Law, Health, and Medical Regulation, ed. S. McVeigh and S. Wheeler (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1992), 35–51; A. Ryan, “Self-Ownership, Autonomy, and Property Rights”, Social Philosophy and Policy 11 (1994), 241–258; J.W. Harris, “Who Owns My Body?”, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 16 (1996), 55–84; J. Christman, “Self-Ownership, Equality, and the Structure of Property Rights”, Political Theory 19 (1991), 28–46; G.A. Cohen, “Self-Ownership, World-Ownership, and Equality”, in Justice and Equality Here and Now, ed. F. Lucash (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 108–135.Google Scholar
  29. 56.
    G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), “Abstract Right”.Google Scholar
  30. 57.
    J.T. McCarthy, “The Human Persona as Commercial Property: the Right of Publicity”, Australian Intellectual Property Journal 7 (1996), 20.Google Scholar
  31. 58.
    K. Grenville, Dark Places (Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 1994), 275. See also K. Grenville, Lilian’s Story (Sydney: George Allen and Unwin, 1985).Google Scholar
  32. 63.
    “The title is generally chosen by the author or by an editorial representative whose property it is. The title names and guarantees the identity, the unity and boundaries of the original work which it heads. It is self-evident that the power and import of a title have an essential rapport to something like the law.” J. Derrida, “Devant la loi”, in Kafka and the Contemporary Critical Performance, ed, A. Voloff (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 128–149Google Scholar
  33. 64.
    M. Cohen, “Property and Sovereignty”, Cornell Law Quarterly 13 (1927), 8. Vandevelde, supra n.49, at 325, writes: “Property and its counterpart, sovereignty, have been understood as generic terms for, respectively, the collection of freedoms held by the individual, and the collection of powers held by the state.”Google Scholar
  34. 65.
    Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1778), 2.Google Scholar
  35. 67.
    Rose, “Property as Wealth, Property as Propriety”, Nomos 33 (1991), 223–247, 232–241.Google Scholar
  36. 68.
    Ibid., at 232.Google Scholar
  37. 71.
    But see generally J. Derrida, Positions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); J. Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983), 92–96.Google Scholar
  38. 72.
    In legal theory, the classic is A. Harris’s critique of C. MacKinnon, “Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory”, Stanford Law Review 42 (1990), 581–616. For a thoughtful analysis of the uses and limitations of essentialist thought, see A. Young, “Of the Essential in Criticism: Some Intersections in Writing, Political Protest and Law”, Law and Critique 1 (1990), 201–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 73.
    M. Lugones, “Purity, Impurity, and Separation”, Signs 19 (1994), 458–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 74.
    J. Derrida, Writing and Difference (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), 183Google Scholar
  41. 75.
    For an anthropological treatment of this theme (which does not accord with my own view, at least in its evaluation of the significance of impurity in modern Western culture), see M. Douglas, Purity and Danger (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 79.
    See M. Davies, Delimiting the Law: Postmodernism and the Politics of Law (London: Pluto Press, 1996). I am influenced here by Maria Lugones’ article “Purity, Impurity, and Separation”, supra n.73.Google Scholar
  43. 80.
    R. Dworkin, Law’s Empire (London: Fontana, 1986).Google Scholar
  44. 81.
    See J. Derrida, “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundation of Authority’”, Cardozo Law Review 11 (1990), 919.Google Scholar
  45. 86.
    J. Derrida, “Limited Inc. abc …”, Glyph 2 (1977), 162, at 190.Google Scholar
  46. 93.
    There is now a very large literature on queer theory. A few recent works include A. Jagose, Queer Theory (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1996); S. O’Driscoll, “Outlaw Readings: Beyond Queer Theory”, Signs 22 (1996), 30–51; C. Dale, “A Debate Between Queer and Feminism”, Critical in Queeries 1 (1997), 145–157; S.D. Walters, “From Here to Queer: Radical Feminism, Postmodernism, and the Lesbian Menace (Or, Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Fag?)”, Signs 21 (1996), 830–869.Google Scholar
  47. 94.
    C. Stychin, “Queer Nations: Nationalism, Sexuality and the Discourse of Rights in Quebec”, Feminist Legal Studies 5 (1997), 3–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 95.
    M. Frye, “To Be and Be Seen: The Politics of Reality”, in The Politics of Reality (Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1983), 155.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deborah Charles Publications, Liverpool 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Davies
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawFlinders University of South AustraliaBedford ParkAustralia

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