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Walter Benjamin’s Concept of Law
Walter Benjamin’s Concept of Law
Amy Swiffen
Part I: Benjamin’s Critique of Violence

This essay aims to clarify the relevance of Walter Benjamin’s concept of law for contemporary socio-legal theory by providing an exegetical account of the text ‘Critique of Violence’ (1978). The Critique was written against a backdrop of political turbulence in post-WWI Germany. The theme of law’s relation to violence upon which it dwells speaks to the context of parliamentary breakdown and political violence that plagued the country in the lead up to the rise of fascism. What interested Benjamin was the conditions of possibility for ‘legal violence’, by which he meant the use of legitimate or sanctioned violence (e.g. criminal law power).1 By ‘law’, Benjamin ...

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