Law, Politics and Popular Culture

Understanding the basic methods of classical jurisprudence.

This elective intends to facilitate a systematic exploration of the following interrelated questions:

1. What sort of problem does popular culture pose for the study of law & politics?

2. How can/​should one recognize and understand its political effects?

3. Can the law adequately respond to such a problem?

Popular culture (PC) is presented as a problem’ insofar as it seems to disavow its political dimension. Its messages often shape themselves (implicitly or explicitly) as responses to contemporary social issues. For instance, many of today’s popular action thrillers (Batman, Singham, Dabangg etc.) openly justify/​normalize state-supported vigilantism. In a context when state-violence poses perhaps the biggest threat to human rights the world over, such messages must be seen as deeply troubling.

One can claim, therefore, that PC silently shifts deeply political issues away from rational
public discourse to the realm of private consumption. And in this way it negates the very
ground from which the law derives its legitimacy.

Legal norms, in other words, have force because they represent the (rationally
deliberated) political choices of the community. What if, however, these very rational’
choices are shaped by the images one unreflectively consumes? A critical understanding
of PC therefore becomes important not only for students of the law, but for everyone
studying the politics of development.