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The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d'Etat
In this book, Bruno Latour pursues his ethnographic inquiries intothe different value systems of modern societies. After science,technology, religion, art, it is now law that is being studied byusing the same comparative ethnographic methods. The case study isthe daily practice of one of the French supreme court, the Conseild’Etat, specialized in administrative law (the equivalent ofthe Law Lords in Great Britain). Even though the French legalsystem is vastly different from the Anglo-American tradition, itjust happens that this branch of French law, although created byNapoleon Bonaparte at the same time as the Code-based system, isthe result of a home grown tradition constructed on precedents.Thus, even though highly technical, the cases that forms the matterof this book, are not so exotic for an English speaking audience.
What makes this study an important contribution to the socialstudies of law is that, because of an unprecedented access to thecollective discussions of judges, Latour has been able toreconstruct in details the weaving of legal reasoning : it isclearly not the social that explains the law, but the legal tiesthat alter what it is to be associated together. It is thus a majorcontribution to Latour’s social theory since it is nowpossible to compare the ways legal ties build up associations withthe other types of connections that he has studied in other fieldsof acticity. His project of an alternative interpretation of thevery notion of society has never been made clearer than in thiswork. To reuse the title of his first book, this book is in effectthe Laboratory Life of Law.