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2 - History, Law and the Rediscovery of Social Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Richard Bourke
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Quentin Skinner
Affiliation:
Queen Mary University of London
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Summary

This chapter argues for the need for both history and law to recommit to the broad tradition of social theory, in order for either to make progress on its own, let alone for one to plausibly reorient the other. From the perspective of this argument for common need rather than crossdisciplinary largesse, it is not going to be good enough to suppose that contemporary historiography is already well-positioned for relevance to other fields. In the last fifty years, it has lost touch with the tradition of social theory, thanks to the linguistic and cultural turns and a certain fetishization of contingent outcomes that have been emphasized in critical and genealogical sorts of history. The chapter proceeds to map three ongoing quandaries in social theory, since it is only within the discussion of each that the relationship of history to law takes on its significance. These are the 1) the dilemma of representations versus practices; 2) the reconciliation of contingency and determination; 3) and the assessment of the normative and the political, both as something to explain in diverse past settings but also what might motivate and orient present inquiry in the first place.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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