Cultural Criticism of Law
University at Buffalo Law School
Stanford Law School
in the 49 Stanford Law Review 1149 (1997).
Professors Binder and Weisberg expound a "cultural criticism" of law that views law as an arena for composing, representing, and contesting identity, and that treats identity as constitutive of the interests that motivate instrumental action. They explicate this critical method by reference to "New Historicist" literary criticism, postmodern social theory, and Nietzchean aesthetics. They illustrate this method by reviewing recent scholarship of two kinds: First, they explore how legal disputes take on expressive meaning for parties and observers against the background of legal norms regulating or recognizing identities. Second, they examine "readings" of the representations of character, credit, and value in commercial and financial law that emphasize the role of the figurative imagination in the creation of markets and market society. Professors Binder and Weisberg conclude that law does not so much represent a social world of subjects that exists independent of it, as it does compose that world. Accordingly, the criticism enabled by their "cultural" account of law is more aesthetic than epistemological.
Date posted: September 19, 1997