Date of Submission

Fall 2011

Academic Program

Political Studies

Project Advisor 1

Verity Smith

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Is it possible for extralegal action, or violence, to be reconciled with the rule of law? This is a question that intrudes upon the idea that, as Aristotle stated, “Law should govern.” In essence, the rule of law is supposed to exist to prevent, or to transition from, the arbitrary use of power and deployment of force. If the rule of law exists, then there need not be arbitrary action. But if the transition to, or re-instating of, an ordered state requires a lawless act, or acts, inherently, then no stark dichotomy between the rule of law and violence can possibly exist. Using John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight as filmic examples of states of exception, I explore the idea that the rule of law and violence have an inherent connection. In the first chapter, I look at numerous theorists on the rule of law and states of exception, including Carl Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben. The second chapter looks at The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, while the third chapter looks at The Dark Knight, drawing thematic comparisons to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

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