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Living in Technical LegalityScience Fiction and Law as Technology$
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Kieran Tranter

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474420891

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474420891.001.0001

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Dune, Modern Law, and the Alchemy of Death and Time

Dune, Modern Law, and the Alchemy of Death and Time

(p.43) 2 Dune, Modern Law, and the Alchemy of Death and Time
Living in Technical Legality

Kieran Tranter

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines technical legality through looking in detail at how modernity allowed law as technology. This is undertaken through a jurisprudential reading of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune cycle’. The Dune cycle has been read as involving an affirmation of chaos over rationality in public activities — religion, politics and ecology — concluding with the message of self-care and Zen-like calm in coping with an uncertain universe. But these accounts sell Herbert’s imagining short. This chapter re-examines the Dune cycle as a story of tyrants and leviathan sandworms. In this re-reading, Dune can be seen as an account of the metaphysics of law as technology. The themes of the secondary literature on Dune can be rewoven into a critical elaboration of Hobbes’ ‘mortal God’ which exposes the essential commitments of sovereignty and its technical law. These commitments are death and time. Located within the bloody alchemy of modernity, the monstrousness of the law as technology is revealed – the consumption of bare life in time. This brutal realisation seems to end with Schmitt’s representative sovereign deciding to make the world.

Keywords:   Modern Law, Sovereignty, Monster, Death, Time, Dune, Frank Herbert, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt

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