Make it new! The redeeming Modernism of law and the collapsing of its polarities

Angela Condello, Luke Mason

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article argues that law is an inherently modernist normative practice. Constructing a vision of Modernism which is at once an epistemology and an attitudinal disposition to doubt and make anew our assumptions about the world, the authors demonstrate that legal practice encounters the world through individual cases, ?examples?. Through these examples the law is capable of both interacting with and comprehending that world, while also being forced to question the law?s own precepts and their application. In this manner, the law?s generalisations and abstractions become concrete, and can indeed be upended, through fleeting, impressionistic and highly case-specific examples. This exemplarity within law explains how law is able to navigate its apparently contradictory aspirations and natures which have bedevilled legal philosophy for millennia. In reality, law exists within a series of polarities, rather than contradictions, which are navigated through the law?s encounters with examples from the extra-legal world. The authors conclude that this aspect of the law?s nature also has practical consequences, requiring the law to maintain the fora in which new and novel cases are heard, and through which law?s modernist spirit can thrive.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-165
    Number of pages17
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 12 Apr 2019


    • Law; Modernism; Rule of law; Polarity; Exemplarity; Normativity


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