Law is the most sacred fetish of our time. From radicals to conservatives, there is no militant, activist or thinker who would consider doing without it. But the history of our fascination with law is long and complex, and reaches deeper into our culture than we might think.
In After Law, Laurent de Sutter takes us on a journey to uncover the sources of our fascination with law. He shows that at a certain moment in our history a choice was made to treat law as a decisive feature of civilization, but this choice was neither obvious nor necessary. Other political, social, religious or cultural possibilities could have been chosen instead of adopting a theoretical tool aimed at governing our behaviour and even our lives by means of abstract principles. De Sutter takes us through a variety of normative landscapes that guide, and have guided, the lives of millions in a way that has nothing to do with law. From Ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia, from Medieval Japan to India and China, from Islam to Judaism, other cultures have devised sophisticated tools to help people live together – without having to deal with norms, rules and principles. This is a lesson worth reflecting on, especially at a time when the rule of law and the functioning of justice are increasingly showing their sinister side – and their impotence. Is there life beyond law?