Rhetoric, grammatologyand the hidden injuries of law

Peter Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accepted form of rhetorical analysis of law has traditionally applied a rhetorical order of argument and a variety of figures drawn from forensic rhetoric to the construction and analysis of legal discourse. The project is a scholastic one and endeavours to find the appropriate terms and style of both cause and proof. The present paper argues for an inversion of that relationship between the disciplines of rhetoric and law. Here law is used to analyse rhetoric in an attempt to understand the nature and significance of legal dogmatics as a variety ofwriting systems’. Rhetoric is in this sense understood as a part of grammatology, as a material structure of transmission, historically and politically obedient to legal rules or fealties of source and meaning. Using the sixteenth-century examples of heraldry, symbolaeography and legal notation, it is argued that legal writing systems elaborate a contractarian semantics, a bonding of word to meaning and of sign to referent whose legalistic implications extend far beyond the discipline of law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-190
Number of pages24
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Social Sciences


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