Cornell Law Review Volume 96 Issue 4

The Reenchantment of Law

The religious revival observed throughout the world since the 1980s is making its mark on legal theory, threatening to shift the jurisprudential battleground from debates over law’s indeterminacy and power to conflicts over law’s grounds, meaning, unity, coherence, and metaphysical underpinnings.  Following the immense impact of the legal-realist movement on American jurisprudence, the major jurisprudential conflicts in the United States throughout the twentieth century revolved around the themes of the indeterminacy and power inherent in adjudication (and the resulting delegitimization of it), pitting theories that emphasized these critical themes against schools of thought that tried to reconstruct and reconstitute the determinacy and legitimacy of adjudication.  I argue in this Essay, however, that over the past couple of decades, a new jurisprudential dividing line has emerged without attracting much notice or attention.  This new divide, which I draw in this Essay, is between thinkers who adhere to a disenchanted, instrumentalist, and secularized view of the law and theoreticians who try to reenchant it by reintroducing a degree of magic, sacredness, and mystery into the law; by reconnecting it to a transcendental or even divine sphere; by finding unity and coherence in the entirety of the legal field; and by bringing metaphysics “back” into the study of law.


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