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Latour and the Passage of Law$
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Kyle McGee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748697908

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697908.001.0001

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The Life and Deaths of a Dispute: An Inquiry into Matters of Law

The Life and Deaths of a Dispute: An Inquiry into Matters of Law

Chapter:
(p.160) 6 The Life and Deaths of a Dispute: An Inquiry into Matters of Law
Source:
Latour and the Passage of Law
Author(s):

Niels van Dijk

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697908.003.0007

Taking up the Latourian challenge of offering an alternative empirical account of what it is, precisely, to ‘do’ law, Niels van Dijk, in ‘The Life and Deaths of a Dispute’, mobilises insights gleaned from ethnographic research conducted at a law firm and courts in Belgium to formulate the legal-theoretical concept of matters of dispute. Tracing the gradual transformation of these matters into legal cases and finally judgments and accomplished facts, van Dijk names each step in the biography of a dispute, sharpening our understanding of the nature of legality along the way. Moving from the development of the dispute through a series of contractions, condensations and extensions to its reduction to contentious points and the judicial linearisation of its complicated folds, van Dijk invents a conceptual topology of law that he calls, suggestively, legal pointillism. Rather than a mere ‘aestheticisation’ of law, this represents a philosophical ungrounding, or re-grounding, of all existing jurisprudence and legal epistemology, stimulating a new look at fundamental concepts (thing, cause, effect, ground, point …) that have been locked for too long in the dusty inventories of metaphysics. Van Dijk claims an affinity not only with Leibniz, Whitehead and Deleuze, but with Harman’s object-oriented philosophy as well. Finally, though his indebtedness to Latour’s ethnography of the Council of State is clear on every page, van Dijk marks a number of differences with him on crucial questions, like the nature of the legal totality and the role of tautology in legal reasoning, arguing that, in the end, it would be better to speak of assignation as a mode rather than law.

Keywords:   Dispute, Legal theory, Modes of existence, Bruno Latour, Legal ethnography

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