Belief in the rule of law characterizes our society, our political order, and even our identity as citizens. Yet despite the importance of this phenomenon, those who study culture have failed to focus on the law. In this work, Paul Kahn provides a full examination of what it means to conduct a modern intellectual inquiry into the culture of law. He explains the shortcomings of current legal scholarship and, more important, charts the way for the development of an entirely new intellectual discipline of law, one that approaches law as a way of life rather than a set of rules. Kahn argues that legal scholars, despite the appearance of some sophisticated theory in modern legal scholarship, are bound to the idea of improving the law through reform. The state of current legal scholarship can be compared to the study of religion around the turn of the century, when it was a part of the practice of religion and not a distinct intellectual discipline as it is today. To conduct a genuine study of our legal culture, we must step outside the boundaries of our legal system, abandon the ambition of reform, and instead interpret the beliefs and practices that constitute the rule of law.
Kahn outlines the conceptual tools and methodology necessary for such an inquiry. Drawing on modern cultural studies, he analyzes the concepts of time, space, citizen, judge, sovereignty, and theory within the culture of the rule of law.