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The Co-production of Weapons & Law

Project: Other


Funding by Collaborative Research Grant from the Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School.

The “cultural lag” argument, originally introduced by sociologist William Ogburn, is the claim that developments in technology somehow precede cultural developments. This ostensibly creates periods of crisis, in which culture must adjust or “catch up” with faster material developments. A particular genre of this argument has in recent years emerged everywhere in the context of the laws of war. New military technologies, so goes the story, require new doctrinal developments that will somehow close a normative gap that threatens to render law obsolete or indeed irrelevant. This research group aims to examine historically and theoretically the implicit assumptions of this “legal lag” argument, and the kinds of political agendas it advances. We hope to at least temporarily replace constant conversations about questions like how drones require new laws, by their converse. For example, how do drones illuminate and help expose fundamental characteristics of the legal conditions that allowed them to emerge in the first place?
Effective start/end date1/03/151/03/16