Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


Let us pretend that two people, one a Marxist political theorist and the other a deconstructionist literary theorist, come across a sign bearing the above epigram from Anatole France. The Marxist theorist interprets the sign from a politico-economic perspective and concludes that 'law reflects the interest of the ruling class, and is a means of perpetuating a social order.' The deconstructionist theorist says, 'this sign reflects the prevailing ontological and epistemological perspectives, in that it accepts both the existence of a thing called 'law' per se, and that the world consists of a series of oppositional pairs' (here, for example, rich and poor). At first glance, these two opinions do not seem to have much in common, nor are their implications for law obvious. Yet, both have much to offer contemporary legal studies. Each, in its own way, brings to light some of the unarticulated biases which support both the existing legal tradition and society at large. The basic theories of deconstruction and Marxism and their respective implications for society are outlined first. In brief, both are critical of hegemonies evident in liberal capitalist society: the deconstructionist of structuralist epistemology, and the Marxist of capitalism. From this it should become evident that the two are not as dissimilar as they might seem at the outset. Their similarity will be made more explicit as the implications of each for legal theory are explored. Specifically, I shall compare the deconstructionist and Marxist theories on the origin of law, the functions of law, and the future of law. It is proposed that not only will these two schools arrive at many of the same conclusions about the present state of law, but that they both point to a new way of viewing law and society.

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