2018: All Injuries are Relational: Individual Legal Consciousness Reconsidered

Professor David Engel, University at Buffalo School of Law, State University of New York, presented the 2018 Annual Socio-Legal Lecture

Legal consciousness research enjoys a continuing popularity among socio-legal scholars.  For the most part, researchers have assumed that legal consciousness is to be studied in the thoughts, decisions, and behavior of the individual actor. Relationships and interpersonal dealings are considered, if at all, as factors external to consciousness itself, producing only occasional effects. This study, however, argues that a deeper consideration of the interpersonal aspects of legal consciousness is justified in light of a growing literature on the relational self in the health sciences, the social sciences, and in law itself.  Furthermore, recent socio-legal research in a greater number of cultures reinforces the view that legal consciousness is actually created in and sustained by relationships and that an individualistic perspective across cultures is ultimately unproductive.  Legal consciousness is not necessarily coterminous with the physical body.  Focusing on the legal consciousness of injury victims, this study contends that all injuries are actually relational as they are perceived and experienced by their victims.  The role and relevance of law in injury cases can be understood only in terms of the network of relationships that injuries affect.


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