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International Journal of Literary Culture / Internationale Zeitschrift für literarische Kultur

Ed. by Biti, Vladimir / Liska, Vivian

CiteScore 2018: 0.12

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.122
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Volume 54, Issue 2


Liberal Nomos, National Narrative: Karl Kraus’s Critique of Law

Gal Hertz
  • Corresponding author
  • Tel Aviv University, Cohn Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, P. O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv6997801, Israel
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Published Online: 2019-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2019-0020


The critique of law and judicial practice is a central theme in Karl Kraus’s oeuvre. However, it is mostly understood by scholars as – to use Robert Cover’s terms – addressing law as nomos (what law says) rather than as narrative (its normative grounding). This article claims that the narratival critique of law, which Kraus develops via Shakespeare, Goethe, and other literary sources, should not be seen as a merely aesthetic complement to his legal arguments, but rather as essential to his approach to jurisprudence and social justice. This view challenges a non-critical application of pre-given values and fixated norms, since such practice undermines contingent moral concerns and often leads to social harm. From this perspective, this analysis shows how Kraus captures and documents the historical political transition of the Habsburg Monarchy, in which criminalization was put to use as a political tool, as a liberal institution co-opted by national discourse and populist ideology.

Keywords: Karl Kraus; law and literature; narrative; normativity; moral panic; jurisprudence; liberalism; Vienna 1900

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About the article

Published Online: 2019-11-08

Published in Print: 2019-11-07

Citation Information: arcadia, Volume 54, Issue 2, Pages 167–195, ISSN (Online) 1613-0642, ISSN (Print) 0003-7982, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2019-0020.

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