The Critique of Law and the Law of Critique – London, 29 May

23rd Apr 2019

Christoph Menke (Frankfurt)

“The Critique of Law and the Law of Critique”
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
5:30 – 7:30 pm
LG01 Lecture Theatre
Professor Stuart Hall Building

The question of the critique of law is at the same time a question of the law – and the right – of critique. For law is itself not only a socially institutionalized practice of critique, but probably the first such practice; law is an apparatus of normative distinction, and critique is the judge. This raises the question of whether or not a critique of law is at all possible. For either the critique of law simply repeats or doubles the critique that is enacted by and in law; it does to or with law what law itself does. But then it is not a critique of law but rather its affirmation: law once again. Or critique effectively rejects law and overcomes its practice of normative distinction. But then it is not a critique of law but something other than critique (and hence also no longer directed at or against law, but rather attempts to replace it).

This talk will try to first expose and then overcome this dilemma by sketching an alternative strategy for a critique of law. Here, critique no longer means an operation of normative distinction – distinguishing between the bad and the good, the right and the false side of law – but rather the exposition of its paradox. This paradox of law consists in the unity of justice and domination (or violence). The talk will try to show that this paradox can neither be resolved nor accepted. “Critique” then becomes the name for theoretical and political strategies of unfolding the paradox of law.


Christoph Menke is Professor of Practical Philosophy with a specialisation in Political Philosophy and the Philosophy of Right at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, where he is also a principal investigator within the Cluster of Excellence, “Normative Orders.” He taught at the University of Potsdam from 1999 to 2009 and at the New School for Social Research from 1997 to 1999. Among his numerous publications are: The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativity in Adorno and Derrida (1988, [English] 1999); Tragödie im Sittlichen: Gerechtigkeit und Freiheit nach Hegel [Tragedy in Morality: Justice and Freedom after Hegel] (1996); Reflections of Equality (2000, [English] 2006); Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett (2005 and 2010, [English] 2009); Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology (2008, [English] 2012); and, most recently, Law and Violence: Christoph Menke in Dialogue (2018).

This event is free and open to the public.

Contact: j.ng [at] gold.ac.uk and a.toscano [at] gold.ac.uk.