Post-Structuralism and Law

  • Michael Ryan
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


Liberal law polices the social universe as much by policing meaning as by making certain that those who do not benefit greatly from liberal capitalism do not get out of hand. Liberal law polices meaning by making certain that concepts like equality and fairness are limited to understandings that do not disturb the basic structure of liberal society, a structure characterized by a high degree of material inequality and practical unfairness. Hence, equality, for example, shall mean equal treatment by government rather than a redistribution of wealth or a levelling of power. Those other meanings or references exist in potential form in the liberal conceptual scheme, but they are held in place by a version of the same distinction that holds workers and managers, non-owners and owners apart in capitalism. The right meaning is thought to be the one most detached from materiality, from the world of empirical contingency and difference. It is ideal and formal, and as a result, it is more general and universal. It can be applied equally to all, like equality itself. Another way of putting this is to say that the right meaning is one that transcends situation as well as representation. It is not bound to any specific context or material site, and it rises above the material vehicles of thought, as formal principles are always said to exist outside language particularly.


Coherence Assure Expense Posit Straw 
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Copyright information

© Michael Ryan 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Northeastern UniversityUSA

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