Professor Dominik Zechner

Taught in English. No prerequisites.

Justice, violence, and the law are entangled in complex ways. While we may think that if we conscientiously followed the law, our actions would necessarily turn out to be just, justice inevitably exceeds the boundaries of legal stipulations. In fact, it is quite uncertain whether and how it is possible to make a just decision, to act or speak justly. While, on the one hand, the law is never fully able to represent justice, it is, on the other hand, fundamentally reliant on violence. No law can be enforced without violence––in Hobbes’ words, “covenants, without the sword, are but words.” The question then arises how legal violence is different from the unrestrained violence of lawlessness. And whether we could conceive of a kind of law that were based on what Judith Butler has called “the force of nonviolence.” Our seminar will explore this intricate conceptual relationship and expose students to seminal works by philosophers, theorists, and writers including Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Werner Hamacher, and Judith Butler.

Fulfills SAS Core Goals AHo, AHp, WCd