Article Title

Law and Politics as Play


Lief H. Carter


Liberal theory fails to cope effectively with the common human tendency, under certain conditions, to brutalize other humans. Liberal theory does not adequately accommodate the reality that humans contest concepts of rights, justice, and truth. The necessarily contextual, contested, and contingent character of substantive liberal principles necessarily prevents them, qua principles, from effectively inhibiting human brutality. Liberal theory also does not take adequate account of the passionate and non-rational character of the human animal. Giambattista Vico's remarkably prescient and comprehensive eighteenth century vision of the human condition anticipates these two barriers to achieving liberalism's pacific political and social vision. Vico suggests that the visceral experiences of competitive human play can, and in fact do, displace the political and social conditions and practices that commonly trigger brutal human behavior. Thus framed, the liberal tradition moves humans from righteousness to playfulness.

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