Review of Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011)
May 31, 2012
“Monumental” is the best way to describe Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis’s tome, Representing Justice, which features over 250 images depicting the rich, complex, and often fraught relationship between art and adjudication. The reader is invited to join the authors through their inquisitive meanderings through cities, palaces, museums and courtrooms to uncover how cultures and societies have translated ideas about justice into art. Far from simply being a paean to justice-themed art, however, the book uses the plasticity of justice as a visual symbol to critique our single-minded focus on justice as a “first virtue.” By fixing our gaze too tightly on justice, we have lost sight of the other virtues required of institutions that govern complex, diverse societies that aspire to democratic self-rule. Despite their worries about justice’s ultimate inadequacy, however the authors’ tone is nostalgic and reverential. They ultimately lament the disappearance of traditional courtrooms in favor of alternative modes of dispute resolution. Critics may ask whether the two main lines of critique in the book — of our overreliance on the idea of justice on the one hand, and of the gradual obsolescence of the public ideal of justice as a result of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, on the other — pull in separate directions, but no critic can fail to be dazzled by the artistic and philosophical scope of the book.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 4
Keywords: Justice, legal philosophy, art history
Date posted: August 11, 2013