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Law from Below

How the Thought of Francisco Suárez, SJ, Can Renew Contemporary Legal Engagement

A constructive model of engagement with unjust laws from the ground up

The current political atmosphere would suggest that law is imposed only from above, specifically by the chief executive acting upon some sort of perceived populist mandate.

In Law from Below, Elisabeth Rain Kincaid argues that the theology of the early modern legal theorist and theologian, Francisco Suárez, SJ may be successfully retrieved to provide a constructive model of legal engagement for Christians today. Suárez's theology was developed to combat an authoritarian view of law, suggesting that communities may work to change law from the ground up as they function within the legal system, not just outside it. Law from Below suggests that Suárez's theory of law provides a theologically robust way to mount a counter-narrative to contemporary authoritarian theories of law, while still acknowledging the good in the rule of law and its imposition by a legislative authority. Suárez acknowledges the crucial contribution of citizens to improving law's moral content, without removing the importance of law's own authority or the role of the lawgiver.

Law from Below argues that the dialogue between legislators and the community provides Christian activists with a range of options for constructively engaging with law in order to have a positive impact on society.

About the Author

Elisabeth Rain Kincaid in Business Ethics and director of the Center for Ethics and Economic Justice at Loyola University New Orleans. She has published broadly in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, the Scottish Journal of Theology, and Political Theology.

Reviews

"Elisabeth Rain Kincaid breathes new life into the thought of the 16th-century Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suárez, skillfully showing that we still have much to learn from this once towering figure in Catholic theology and philosophy, particularly on the nature of law and democracy."—Matthew A. Shadle, Divine Word College and Seminary

"Kincaid breathes new life into the thought of the 16th-century Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suárez, skillfully showing that we still have much to learn from this once towering figure in Catholic theology and philosophy, particularly on the nature of law and democracy."—Matthew A. Shadle, Divine Word College and Seminary

"Law from Below offers a compelling and timely contribution to an important conversation about the nature and scope of political authority, challenging views from legal theory and Christian theology that tend toward an absolutist model of political leadership. Kincaid's rigorous exposition of Suarez's account of justice and equity provides a thoughtful foundation for her view of the common good as most adequately achieved through dialectical discernment between political leaders and everyday citizens. While Kincaid's text is of particular importance for religious ethicists, her work will also greatly benefit broader Christian audiences, especially through the specific and meaningful guidance it offers regarding how best to promote justice and effect political change."—Elizabeth Agnew Cochran, Professor of Catholic Studies and Theology, Duquesne University

Georgetown University Press
Moral Traditions

 

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