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Legitimacy, Identity, Violence and the Law

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Title: Legitimacy, Identity, Violence and the Law
Author: Hatfield, Michael
Abstract: "Legitimacy, Identity, Violence and the Law": Connecting the international publicity surrounding American torture to reductions in America's international political legitimacy, this essay explores how the legitimacy of the American legal system is also brought into question. Just as the political struggle over the appropriate use of torture is an American struggle for national moral identity and political legitimacy, the professional struggle over the legality of torture is a struggle for the moral identity and legitimacy of the legal system. Lawyers who defend the American government's right to torture perceive themselves as technicians and law as an objective science; thus, they conclude that they are not personally responsible for re-defining "torture" so as not to include torture. However, to the extent American lawyers reject the "objective technician" understanding of the profession, they must accept that the professional is political. Personal judgments as to the morality of torture drive professional reasoning as to its legality. Just as individual American citizens struggle politically against torture being committed in their name, individual American lawyers must struggle against torture being committed "in the name of" the legal system.
Date: 2007

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