The Law before its law
Franz Kafka on the (im)possibility of Law’s self-reflection
in Critical theory and legal autopoiesis
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This chapter offers a novel interpretation of Franz Kafka’s celebrated parable ‘Before the Law’, inspired by developments in European legal theory, particularly the work of Jacques Derrida, Niklas Luhmann and Giorgio Agamben. It suggests a dual role-change in the confrontation of the parable’s protagonists – the ‘man from the country’ and the ‘law’. According to this interpretation it is not a specific individual who stands before the law’ but the legal discourse itself that is in desperate search of its law. The parable’s ‘law’ for its part is not a generalised and distant authority (power, morality, religion, etc.), but the valid and positive law of our times. The chapter asks the question: What happens within the mysterious relationship between ‘Law AND law’ which has always preoccupied legal theory when that relationship is subjected to the nightmarish logic in Kafka’s universe?’

Critical theory and legal autopoiesis

The case for societal constitutionalism

Editor: Diana Göbel



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