Law and Violence

In his essay, “Critique of Law,” Walter Benjamin analyzes the paradoxical entwinement that ties law to violence. This paradoxical structure forms the mythical fate of law. The talk starts with a reconstruction of this diagnosis in terms of the structure of legal subjectivity. It then explores the question if, and how, a break with fate – or a way out of the paradox of law without reducing its necessity – is possible. The question is how to understand the idea of an “Entsetzung” (relief) of law. (Menke)

Christoph Menke is Professor of Practical Philosophy at Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main. From 1999 to 2009 he taught at the University of Potsdam and from 1997 to 1999 at the New School for Social Research, New York. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of the magazines Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory, Philosophy and Social Criticism, and Polar. His publications include The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativity after Adorno and Derrida (1998), Reflections of Equality (2006), Tragic Play: Irony and Theater from Sophocles to Beckett (2009), and Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology (2012).

On February 28, Professor Menke leads a follow-up seminar on his essay, “The Fate of the Law,” from Law and Violence (2013).

Introduction: Martin Jay, Professor of History and Critical Theory Director, UC Berkeley