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Dalhousie Law Journal. Volume 13, Number 1 (1990), p. 20-54.


To talk of law without politics or history is nonsensical. All lawyers must concede that what they do takes place in historical circumstances and has political consequences. Every piece of law-making and law-application is a governmental act, it relies on political authority and claims binding force. Moreover, all legal activity occurs within a particular historical context, it is intended to respond to or influence a past, existing or anticipated state of affairs. This means that the study of law must concern itself with politics and history generally: it must not confine itself to only the politics and history of law. To do otherwise would be to distort and trivialize any understanding of law. Within such a broad political and historical appreciation, the focus of inquiry is not so much on 'law' as on 'law-government' because the idea of law without government is almost oxymoronic. Law is not only a symbol and act of power, it is also a major component of the social context in which those symbols and acts of power acquire meaning, significance and effect.

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