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Lady Justice Turns A Blind Eye: (Ir-)Relevance, Legal Thought And Social Order

Jan Strassheim


The word “relevance” seems to have originated in legal practice. Against this background, an attempt is made to clarify A. Schutz’s theory of relevance by referring it to notions found in legal thinking. The main point is to contribute to an understanding of the role of relevance and irrelevance at the level of social order which is often modelled on a legal system. Schutz’s concept of relevance reflects a tension between general patterns and the dynamic of their application which has been discussed, in reference to laws, as the problem of “equity” (Aristotle). Schutz’s reference to types taken for granted “until further notice” expresses this tension in the form of a legal “presumption” (G. W. Leibniz). Through the concept of a legal “state of affairs”, the analysis is referred to the role of “critique” (L. Boltanski and L. Thevenot). Against the suspicion that a relevance theory may describe something like an “order of the visible” (J. Ranciere) which would suppress critics by making them “invisible”, it is argued that an analysis of relevance based on Schutz may help account both for the stability of social order and for the fact that social order can, in principle, be changed through criticism.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston