Law and Irresponsibility: On the Legitimation of Human Suffering

TitleLaw and Irresponsibility: On the Legitimation of Human Suffering
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsVeitch, S

It is commonly understood that in its focus on rights and obligations law is centrally concerned with organising responsibility. In defining how obligations are created, in contract or property law, say, or imposed, as in tort, public, or criminal law, law and legal institutions are usually seen as society’{}s key mode of asserting and defining the content and scope of responsibilities. This book takes the converse view: legal institutions are centrally involved in organising irresponsibility. Particularly with respect to the production of large-scale harms – including extensive human rights violations, forms of colonialism, or environmental or nuclear devastation – and in opposition to conventional understandings of responsibility in law, morality and politics, the book provides a detailed analysis of the ways in which legal institutions – their practices, concepts, and categories – themselves operate as much to deflect responsibility for harms suffered as they do to acknowledge them. Drawing on a series of case studies from local, national, and global concerns the book analyses how law facilitates dispersals and disavowals of responsibility, and it shows how it does so in consistent and patterned ways. In assessing how this ‘{}organised irresponsibility’ operates, and what its consequences are for both legal analysis and society generally, a thoroughgoing re-evaluation of law’{}s methods, operation, and consequences is required. At stake is nothing less than a fundamental re-assessment of the role of modern law in the production and legitimation of human suffering. This innovative and interdisciplinary book provides a sustained challenge to conventional thinking about law and legal institutions. It will be of major interest to those working in law, political and legal theory, sociology and moral philosophy