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Material Law

Material Law: A Jurisprudence of What's Real

John Brigham
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Material Law
    Book Description:

    Law is part of the process by which people construct their views of the world. InMaterial Law,distinguished scholar John Brigham focuses on the places where law and material life intersect, and how law creates and alters our social reality. Brigham looks at an eclectic group of bodies and things-from maps and territories and trends in courthouse architecture to a woman's womb and a judge's body-to make connections between the material and the legal.

    Theoretically sophisticated, and consistently fascinating,Material Lawintegrates law and society, political science, and popular culture in a truly interdisciplinary fashion. Brigham examines how the meaning of law is influenced by politics, reviewing, for example, whether the authority of global law supersedes that of national law in the context of Anglo-American cultural colonialism. What emerges is a well-reasoned look at how the authority of law constitutes what we see as real in our lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-966-8
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. PART I Theorizing Material Life

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-4)

      Law, in places that derive their institutions from England, depends on a positive foundation. In jurisprudence, this foundation holds that law comes as commands from the sovereign rather than from nature. In this “occidental logic,”¹ the positivism of science also plays a role by positing a world made up of facts on the one hand and values on the other. This positivism makes it hard to see the interconnectedness of law and things. Here, the ways we know things get mixed with the power of government. In “theorizing material life,” the chapters that follow attempt to make connections. We can,...

    • 1 The Map and the Territory
      (pp. 5-23)

      Maps seem to draw in students of law and language. Years ago, Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s wonderful essay “Law: A Map of Misreading” recalled the Argentine philosopher Jorge Luis Borges telling the story of an emperor who ordered his cartographers to produce an exact map of his empire.¹ After producing the map, they found it not to be practical since it was the same size as the empire.² The semiotician S. I. Hayakawa cautioned us a generation ago that “the Map is not the territory.” This caveat anchored his teachings about the confusions that abound in the world we symbolize....

    • 2 The Public in the Womb
      (pp. 24-47)

      The law on abortion has changed the meaning of human life in the United States.¹ BeforeRoe v. Wade,² abortion, while deeply personal and often tragic, had, in policy terms, been a medical and theological issue. After the decision, it came to be a much broader social, political, and legal concern. The public debate generated by the law on abortion has politicized pregnancy, affecting every dimension of child bearing from insurance to the meaning of birth.³ One unexpected result of the Supreme Court decision is that the fetus or unborn child is much more important than it was prior to...

    • 3 Habeas Corpus at the Temple
      (pp. 48-72)

      Justice Thurgood Marshall lamented his timing on retiring from the Supreme Court by saying he couldn’t wait for a Democrat to be elected president because he was “… old and coming apart.”¹ A few months later, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, speaking at Western New England Law School, reported his imminent departure from the Court, adding that although he wasn’t suffering from any serious illnesses, “There’s something physically wrong with all of us.”² And, when Justice Byron White announced that he planned to retire, he said nothing about his own health but, instead, suggested the appeal of the “golden years” and...

  6. PART II Constituting Legal Spaces

    • Introduction
      (pp. 75-76)

      Having considered some theoretical aspects of the relationship between the material and law, the move in this part of the book is to the constitutive. This is a perspective that holds law to be partly responsible for our material life and calls attention to that aspect of law’s existence. The sites and substantive focus for the inquiry are neighborhoods, suburbs, regions, and nations. It is in these the places, the sites where people live and work, that law sometimes constitutes the terrain by setting the stage for conflict, for politics and for social life. This interest in the constitutive dimension...

    • 4 Law’s Neighborhoods
      (pp. 77-99)

      This chapter examines the places where we live for evidence of law that constitutes our lives. The chapter is a challenge to instrumental conceptions of law that are still prominent in some social scientific circles.¹ The studies that are the foundation here take us to northern California ranches and to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Here, we show legal relations shaping grassroots struggles over public space. We call attention to housing as it is manifest in forums, claims, and political positions. These accounts become points of reference for discussing a wide range of other neighborhoods both in the United...

    • 5 De Facto Discrimination and the Double Standard
      (pp. 100-117)

      In the United States, the constitutional framework that emerged from the Civil War began to stabilize on race in the 1950s. It has remained remarkably stable since then. Not only has the Supreme Court made only minor changes, but the way that the Supreme Court understands constitutional equal protection continues to have a close relationship to what most Americans think about race and equality. In the U.S. presidential campaign of 2008, for instance, Barack Obama campaigned as if race did not matter. Although his following among African Americans was strong, he told his life story as a person of both...

    • 6 Occupied Territories
      (pp. 118-140)

      James Baldwin’s collection ofessays, Nobody Knows My Name, and the African American life that it depicts present a number of jurisprudential challenges to national law. In the original 1960 essay, Baldwin depicts African Americans in Harlem as living in an occupied territory. This community was not, as public policy in America would have it, merely inhabited by people who had not yet received all the blessings of the American dream. It was not, as political theory might contend, simply a place where the social contract was not being upheld with reference to more fortunate citizens who lived in the...

  7. PART III Materializing Law

    • Introduction
      (pp. 143-144)

      Having theorized the split between law and the putative real world, and seen this split and the real world of laws for the politics that it contains, we have laid a foundation for discussing the material nature of law. We concentrate here on the material forms that law takes. In some, law simply materializes as a place, the courthouse. In another instance in which we can speak of law materializing, law takes the form of market relations and gets its identity along with the economy. In the end, the emergence of law as a thing is contested in the global...

    • 7 Law Buildings
      (pp. 145-167)

      Americans moved, in the last century, from framing law in Greek temples, to processes symbolized by electronic circuitry and video equipment. The Supreme Court building in Washington represents the old model, while law as process finds its expression more generically in the modern skyscraper and the television monitor. Since construction of the Supreme Court in the 1930s, this building has been a familiar referent for law not only in the United States but also around the world. With its allusion to the classics, the Court has flourished as a legal image in spite of modern architectural styles arising at about...

    • 8 Commodity Form as Law
      (pp. 168-189)

      Western intellectuals have marked their superiority with stories of primitive rituals at least since the contributions of John Locke. The “cargo cults” of the South Pacific put this spin on the Second World War, and allege the superiority of those who waged it. The people of the South Pacific were said to have been so grateful for the planes that arrived during the war bringing exotic supplies that they built runways hoping to draw the cargo planes back. They even placed “decoy” planes on the runways in the hopes that the supply planes would return after the war. Called “cargo...

    • 9 Global Legal Constructs
      (pp. 190-214)

      The Age, a Melbourne, Australia, newspaper, produces a Festival Picnic at Hanging Rock in early March, near the end of the Australian summer. In the late 1990s, my family visited this very Australian place. We hiked the rock, a jagged outcropping in the Victorian countryside made more mystical as the scene of an inquiry into the Australian psyche in a film by Peter Weir. We drank Australian wine and ate Australian delicacies like alligator kabobs, while being entertained by a group called the Fabulous Baker Boys. The band played American oldies from the sixties and seventies. There was none of...

  8. Index
    (pp. 215-218)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 219-219)