Our Word Is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts

Marianne Constable
Berkeley Book Chats
Book Cover for Our Word Is Our Bond by Marianne Constable
Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
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United States

Professor of Rhetoric Marianne Constable specializes in legal rhetoric and philosophy, Anglo-American legal traditions, continental philosophy, and contemporary law and society. Her book, Our Word is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (Stanford, 2014), proposes understanding law as language, rather than as primarily rules, policy, or force. 

Words can be misspoken, misheard, misunderstood, or misappropriated; they can be inappropriate, inaccurate, dangerous, or wrong. When speech goes wrong, law often steps in as itself a speech act. Our Word Is Our Bond offers a nuanced approach to language and its interaction and relation with modern law. Developing insights from Austin, Cavell, Reinach, Nietzsche, Derrida, and Heidegger, Constable argues that, as language, modern law makes and hears imperfect—incomplete and on-going, yet interruptible—claims of justice and injustice. She proposes an alternative to understanding law as a system of rules or policy-making and problem-solving tool, showing that justice depends implicitly on relations of language and law and on the ways in which legal speech acts.

After an introduction by Jonathan Simon (Law), Constable will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.