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Legality and Irony

The major shortcoming of contemporary legal theory is a consequence of its inattention to elementary social phenomena. It ignores the most salient characteristic of the legal system.

Law is something that is performed. Law is, above all, a spectacle.


Ask law students. On the evening of moot court arguments women find themselves waring high heels whil men have successfully forced their bellies into tight suits. This is part of the game. Students have to be able to enact the demeanor that is appropriate to appearing in court.


On a more elementary level, students are expected to learn how to "think like a lawyer". This is not a natural way of thinking. It is rather something highly artificial. This artificiality does not become second nature once students enter the world of legal practice. Outside the context of professional interaction, lawyers talk about law from an external point of view. Indeed, the people who take the law seriously outside their professional setting strike one as somehow odd.

One may wonder why that should be a big deal. The legal system is replete with role-playing. But so is social life in general. Why should it be of any particular relevance to jurisprudence?

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Alexander@Somek.org