May 27, 2015

A Review of Richard Dawson's "Justice As Attunement"

Jack L. Sammons, Mercer School of Law, has published The Virtuous Circle of Justice: Richard Dawson's 'Justice as Attunement. Transforming Constitutions in Law, Literature, Economics, and the Rest of Life', in volume 11 of No Foundations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice (2014). Here is the abstract.
This is my review of Richard Dawson's, Justice as Attunement. Here, from the introduction to the review, is a description of the book and of the review. "Although he does not express it in these terms, in approaching justice through attunement Richard Dawson is thinking of justice as a certain form of truth, a way of thinking about it far from common for our time although it may have been common in times past. In doing this, he is trying to make our language reveal that which we have used to conceal for a very long time, and the challenge of this, if not impossible, is certainly daunting. This book then is an act of courage, and to read it well I think you must read it as such. There is no way to say in propositional terms what he wants to say. What he must do instead, if he is to be true to this form of justice, is to offer readers of this alphabetical lexicon not ordinary definitions, but performative ones: carefully chosen unsettling experiences of the words one might wish to use if propositional terms were possible, experiences that, as he puts it, can 'transform' these words and, in doing so, 'transform' his readers in their understanding of justice. In a culture wedded to 'It is what it is!' Dawson, with each word he explores, gently insists: 'No, it isn't'. All this is to say that this is a very difficult book to review. Its form is as a lexicon of twenty-four words, most of which are central to the work of James Boyd White, and also central for Dawson for an 'attunement' to justice. Analogous uses of each word are explored through carefully selected literary, legal, philosophical, political, historical, economic, and other texts in order to determine the word's role in this attunement. Now, doing this as a lexicon is certainly interesting and creative, but it is also straightforward enough. The way in which each entry works, the way each relates to the others, the way each works upon us, and the way all this relates to justice, however, is quite another matter."
Download the text of the review from SSRN at the link.

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