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(2009) Essays on Levinas and law, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Anarchic law

Simon Critchley

pp. 203-216

Desmond Manderson's Proximity, Levinas and the Soul of Law is a deeply felt and powerful book which is marked by an utter and at times quite disarming moral sincerity.1 Manderson displays a wonderful responsiveness to the compelling strangeness of Levinas's work, of both the way his language moves us and, more importantly in my view, the existential resonance of that language, or the way that language resonates within us, with our sense of self and world, of their connections and disconnections. Most importantly, in a year that was marked by largely turgid and conservative Centenary celebrations of Levinas's birth in 1906, Manderson's book does something new with Levinas. Indeed, what is most striking to the non-lawyer is the way Levinas's thinking is deepened and challenged by a thicket of cases, mainly drawn from common law, and most of those from the musings of the Australian High Court on the law of negligence. Broadly, the seven chapters of this book move from a presentation of Levinas's work in the early chapters through to the central chapters four and five, where Manderson moves from philosophy to law and where the central argument about the relation of ethics to law and more specifically to the law of torts is developed at length. In the final chapters, Manderson moves towards a critique of Levinas from the standpoint of law, showing the limitations of Levinas's work on the question of law and legal judgment and the potentially fatal confusions of law with justice and, more particularly, with politics, which led to Levinas's dreadful failure of political judgment in the case of the massacres in Sabra and Chatila in 1982.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9780230234734_12

Full citation:

Critchley, S. (2009)., Anarchic law, in D. Manderson (ed.), Essays on Levinas and law, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 203-216.

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