Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751
VAN MARLE, Karin. Legal scholarship, the humanities and a few thoughts on justice. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2012, vol.52, n.4, pp.749-760. ISSN 2224-7912.
In this article the author reflects on the relationship between the law and the humanities in the context of the aftermath of apartheid. She raises some concerns with regard to the general sentiment that emanates from the ASSAf report and the Charter on the Humanities and Social Sciences which would appear to limit the contribution of these disciplines to a narrow functionalism devoid of any intrinsic value. She refers to two articles published recently by South African scholars on the state of both the university and the humanities. The first article laments the university's uncritical embrace of corporatisation, resulting in the concomitant loss of collegiality. The other focuses on how even critical responses to the state's approach towards the humanities fall into the trap of again delimiting the humanities; advocating, instead, a third space, within which the humanities would be enabled to develop a selfconscious critical stance. The author underwrites Ulrike Kistner's support of this third space that is linked to Hannah Arendt's definition of freedom (distinguished from liberation). Traditional approaches to law which regard the law as an autonomous discipline are not open to the possible influence and value of the humanities for legal scholarship and legal education. The author, however, is also critical of the extent to which some legal scholars rely on multi-disciplinary approaches, since these perspectives also follow a narrow functionalist approach to the humanities. By way of conclusion she discusses shortly a few examples of a respectful engagement with the humanities as part of a reflection on justice. She highlights the contemplations on law, justice and the humanities of James Boyd White, Marianne Constable and Ari Hirvonen. Law and literature scholar James Boyd White rejects the view of the law as a system of rules and policy as well as the view of the law as an abstract mechanical bureaucratic system. To him law is "an inherently unstable structure of thought and expression"... "not a set of rules at all, but a form of life" (2012:1). Marianne Constable's take on justice is to focus on the exploration of speech and the silences from which speech emanates. She focuses on the imperfect nature of language and translates this into law - as language, law is imperfect, incomplete and unknowable. Ari Hirvonen, through the work of Sarah Kofman, considers the possibility of a new humanism that does not comply with a set of universal morals, but rather imagines and creates communities based on irreducible difference. The author argues that these examples are valuable for the depth of engagement with justice from a humanities perspective, showing that they could also give direction to critical legal scholarship and critical legal education within the present South African context.
Keywords : critical legal study; law; justice; humanities; multi-disciplinary perspectives; collegiality; critical humanities; speech; new humanism.