The Eye of the Law
Two Essays on Legal History
Birkbeck Law Press – 2008 – 78 pages
Series: Birkbeck Law Press
Written by the eminent German legal historian, Michael Stolleis, these two ‘Essays on Legal History’ offer an original and compelling history of the symbolism through which law is characterised as being 'above' us. In ‘The Eye of the Law’, the history of this metaphor is followed from antiquity through to the present day: from the Greek Eye of Justice, the eye of the impartial judge of the Underworld, the Eye of God watching past, present and future, the Eye of the Prince, guiding his subjects, to the almighty Eye of the Law. While our belief in the law may have become brittle, nothing escapes what is now the Eye of Big Brother. ‘In the Name of the Law’ takes up the various formulas used to legitimate the decisions of the courts, from the times of absolutism over the 19th century until today. The speaker who speaks in the name of a higher being underlines his function: his authority comes from above. And it is ‘in the name of’ god, king, people, state, nation, or law, that a weak, earthly, justice receives its support.