This book focuses on the paradoxical character of law and specifically concerns the structural violence of law as the political imposition of normative order onto a "lawless" condition. The paradox of law which grounds and motivates Christoph Menke's intervention is that law is both the opposite of violence and, at the same time, a form of violence. The book develops its engagement with the paradox of law in two stages. The first shows why, and in what precise sense, the law is irreducibly characterized by structural violence. The second explores the possibility of law becoming self-reflectively aware of its own violence and, hence, of the form of a self-critique of law in view of its own violence. The Book's philosophical claims are developed through analyses of works of drama: two classical tragedies in the first part and two modern dramas in the second part. It attempts to illuminate the paradoxical nature of law by way of a philosophical interpretation of literature. There are at least two normative orders within the European ethical horizon that should be called "legal orders" even though they forego the use of coercion and are thus potentially nonviolent. These are international law and Jewish law. Understanding the relationship between law and violence is one of the most urgent challenges a postmodern critical legal theory faces today. Self-reflection, the philosophical concept that plays a key role in the essay, stands opposed to all forms of spontaneity.
Benjamin has pointed out in trenchant terms,40 the critique of the violence of law, which aims at its manifest appearance (which is to say, its means), suffers from one of two weaknesses. It must “proclaim a quite childish anarchism” that “[refuses] to acknowledge any constraint toward persons and [declares], ‘What pleases is permitted’ ” (“Critique”, 241). This critique of the violent means of law proceeds “in the name of a formless ‘freedom’ ” (“Critique”, 242) in whose perspective any constraint or mere stipulation appears as violent privation and injury; yet as