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By Roberto Mangabeira Unger

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Extra info for Law in modern society : toward a criticism of social theory

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Upon closer inspection the problem of modernity turns into an issue about how to compare forms of social life : modern European society with its predecessors and the differ- 42 / LAW IN MODERN SOCIE1Y ent kinds of modern society among themselves. But if what lends unity to a form of social life are analogies of meaning or style rather than logic or causality, we need well-defined criteria of comparison. Otherwise comparative study will be lost in arbitrary assertions of similarity or difference.

To relate appearance to reality in the modern age one must be able to reconcile subj ective and objective meaning, which no strictly logical or causal method can do. And one must succeed in synthesizing the 40 / LAW IN MODERN SOCIETY doctrine of private interest, which belongs chiefly to official ideology, with the theory of consensus, which mainly describes, in an idealized form, the social experience of sub­ jection to groups and to their hierarchies or practices. This experience enters into conflict with the ideology it mysteri­ ously breeds.

The shared standards and percep­ tions of the group color every aspect of an individual's situa­ tion with positive or negative values; there is nothing he can treat simply as a means to which no moral weight attaches. Thus, the very distinction between means and ends breaks down. The consequences of this view of society and of conduct for our ideas about rules are far-reaching. Set against this The Predicament ofSocial Theory I 31 background, rules become manifestations of the shared values of the group.

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