Monday, April 20, 2015

The Force of Law

Frederick Schauer (University of Virginia). The Force of Law (Harvard University Press, 2015).

 "Reinvigorating ideas from Jeremy Bentham and John Austin, and drawing on empirical research as well as philosophical analysis, Schauer presents an account of legal compliance based on sanction and compulsion, showing that law’s effectiveness depends fundamentally on its coercive potential. Law, in short, is about telling people what to do and threatening them with bad consequences if they fail to comply. Although people may sometimes obey the law out of deference to legal authority rather than fear of sanctions, Schauer challenges the assumption that legal coercion is marginal in society. Force is more pervasive than the state’s efforts to control a minority of disobedient citizens. When people believe that what they should do differs from what the law commands, compliance is less common than assumed, and the necessity of coercion becomes apparent." 
Publisher's website

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sex, Power, and Slavery

Gwyn Campbell & Elizabeth Elbourne (McGill University) (eds.). Sex, Power, and Slavery (Ohio University Press, 2014).

"Twenty-six authors from diverse scholarly backgrounds look at the vexed, traumatic intersections of the histories of slavery and of sexuality. They argue that such intersections mattered profoundly and, indeed, that slavery cannot be understood without adequate attention to sexuality. Sex, Power, and Slavery brings into conversation historians of the slave trade, art historians, and scholars of childhood and contemporary sex trafficking. The book merges work on the Atlantic world and the Indian Ocean world and enables rich comparisons and parallels between these diverse areas."

Publisher's website

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Eternal Criminal Record

James B. Jacobs (New York University). The Eternal Criminal Record (Harvard University Press, 2015).

"The United States is unique in making criminal information easy to obtain by employers, landlords, neighbors, even cyberstalkers. Its nationally integrated rap-sheet system is second to none as an effective law enforcement tool, but it has also facilitated the transfer of ever more sensitive information into the public domain. While there are good reasons for a person’s criminal past to be public knowledge, records of arrests that fail to result in convictions are of questionable benefit. Simply by placing someone under arrest, a police officer has the power to tag a person with a legal history that effectively incriminates him or her for life."
From publisher's website

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Expressive Powers of Law: Theories and Limits

Richard H. McAdams (University of Chicago). The Expressive Powers of Law: Theories and Limits (Harvard University Press, 2015).

"People seek order, and they sometimes obtain a mutually shared benefit when each expects the other to behave in accordance with law. Traffic regulations, for example, coordinate behavior by expressing an orderly means of driving. A traffic sign that tells one driver to yield to another creates expectations in the minds of both drivers and so allows each to avoid collision. McAdams generalizes from traffic to constitutional and international law and many other domains. In addition to its coordinating function, law expresses information. Legislation reveals something important about the risks of the behavior being regulated, and social attitudes toward it. Anti-smoking laws, for example, signal both the lawmakers’ recognition of the health risks associated with smoking and the public’s general disapproval. This information causes individuals to update their beliefs and alter their behavior.

McAdams shows how an expressive theory explains the law’s sometimes puzzling efficacy, as when tribunals are able to resolve disputes even though they lack coercive power or legitimacy. The Expressive Powers of Law contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms by which law—simply by what it says rather than what it sanctions—generates compliance."

Publisher's website

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law

Seana Valentine Shiffrin (UCLA). Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law (Princeton University Press, 2014).

"To understand one another as individuals and to fulfill the moral duties that require such understanding, we must communicate with each other. We must also maintain protected channels that render reliable communication possible, a demand that, Seana Shiffrin argues, yields a prohibition against lying and requires protection for free speech. This book makes a distinctive philosophical argument for the wrong of the lie and provides an original account of its difference from the wrong of deception."
Publisher's website