Law and the Modern Identity

42 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2019

Date Written: March 25, 2019


This essay explores the plural elements of our modern identity and their significance for the legal order. This modern identity is all-pervasive and envelops us. It comprises goods that may be in conflict, but "for all that they don't refute each other." The essay provides an explication of and commentary on Charles Taylor's magisterial accounts of the modern identity. I agree that "if we are going to live by the modern identity, it better be by an examined version of it." I suggest ways in which in the legal world too, "modernity urgently needs to be saved from its most unconditional supporters." Finally, I argue that an account of modernity is a necessary step in identifying the tasks of a general theory of legal procedure.

Keywords: Modernity, Charles Taylor, Hannah Arendt, American Law, Bureaucracy, Trials, Philosophy of Law

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Burns, Robert P., Law and the Modern Identity (March 25, 2019). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 19-08, Available at SSRN: or

Robert P. Burns (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-6613 (Phone)
312-503-8977 (Fax)

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