Marianne ConstableOur Word is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts

Stanford University Press, 2014

by Siobhan Mukerji on August 16, 2014

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[Cross-Posted from New Books in LawOur Word is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (Stanford UP, 2014), by UC Berkeley Professor of Rhetoric Marianne Constable, impels its readers to reassess the dominant methods of considering what is law.

Constable’s study of law is informed by both philosophy and sociology; however, she avoids common approaches employed by both disciplines and instead conducts her legal analysis by searching for directives in the form of J.L. Austin’s “speech acts.”

Her methods suggest that there is more of a connection between law-in-books and law-in-action than typical sociological research has proposed. Law-in-books, she argues, is active because it hears claims and makes claims within the context of a world that changes. An overview of the claims found within legal speech, such as promises, debts and warnings, reveals a dynamic force.

Constable’s way of thinking about law insularly removes it from the debate between natural law and positive law. As the title Our Word is Our Bond suggests, the work seeks to show that legal language commits us. These commitments come directly from law’s speech acts, thus her theory avoids principles derived either from a sovereign or God.

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