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A material ontology of law: Law’s materiality in concept and content

Bidwell, Thomas Henry 2021. A material ontology of law: Law’s materiality in concept and content. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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In this thesis, I argue that law is ineluctably material. Law’s materiality can be understood at a conceptual level, as well as in terms of the content of law. My investigation into the central research question of how law is material begins with a reflection upon, and rejection of, the claim that the end of law and the end of human survival are concomitant. Drawing upon the legal philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, Hart, and various evolutionary theories of law, I ultimately discard their teleologies of law and survival. I argue that these legal philosophies erroneously assume the frame of reference of an aggrieved human individual, when they posit that the ends of law and survival are concomitant. Although I reject the teleologies of these survival theories of law, I take inspiration from their ontological engagement with material exigencies of the human body. Taking up this line of inquiry, I argue that the ‘new materialisms’ hold the most promise for further exploration of how law is material. New materialisms insist that agency is distributed in all matter, and that matter is both affective and entangled. The non-anthropocentric method of new materialisms provides a framework for conceptualising law’s materiality beyond the human. Thinking with new materialist ontologies (including those of Deleuze, Bennett, Haraway, and Barad), I formulate two nominal aspects for further inquiry. First, Conditioning encapsulates the sense of the complex contingencies of materiality. I argue that law is Conditioned both in terms of its communication, and its content. Second, Flux represents the sense in which materiality is constantly reconditioned and systemic. I conceptualise the reconditioning of law, and explore the notion of law as a material system. Overall, I conclude that law is ineluctably material in concept and content. I call this the material ontology of law.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Law
Uncontrolled Keywords: law material materiality new materialisms ontology survival
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 September 2021
Date of Acceptance: 1 September 2021
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2022 01:26

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