Law, Justice and the Pervasive Power of the Image
Journal of Law and Social Research, Vol II, 2014-2015
19 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2014 Last revised: 6 Apr 2015
Date Written: November 20, 2014
It is not commonplace for works of legal scholarship to use images to aid and clarify their analysis of law. Yet, law is a cultural entity, as much an art as a science. It is rooted in images as firmly as in rules.
However, law’s relationship to the image is complicated. Law may itself be interpreted as an art form, one of the liberal arts, but that is not all that it is. Law makes use of images, but is not reducible to images. Nor can art be straightforwardly compared to law. There exists no unambiguous analogy between art and law, and there are of course many points of difference between them. Peter Fitzpatrick suggests the relationship between law and culture is an uneasy one, with an ‘edgy quality’, and the same might be said of the relationship of law and image.
In this article, I argue that, while law’s own management of images must be scrutinised with care, law itself may be illuminated, enhanced or undermined by the work that images do, and our own understanding of law thus enriched, or even destabilised. To understand it through the medium of images adds a density and a complexity to our comprehension of law, and reveals tacit assumptions, incongruities and solecisms in the workings of the law. I use a selection of images and art works to make these points.
Keywords: law, culture, art, image, legal theory, aesthetics, philosophy of art, justice
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