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Law and the production of superfluity

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This article considers the concept of superfluity and its pertinence to the study of law. While not a familiar theoretical category, superfluity directs attention to a range of important contemporary problems. The focus here is on the systematic production of superfluous people. Reference is made to writing by Hannah Arendt, for whom the production of superfluous people was central both to totalitarianism and, more generally, to capitalist imperialism. Reference is also made to recent writing by Zygmunt Bauman and Loïc Wacquant, who have addressed 'human waste' and 'advanced marginality' in the context of neoliberal restructuring. The article raises the question of how legal processes and structures, and especially those associated with international or transnational law, may contribute to the production of superfluity, as described by these authors. It appears that we know relatively little on this subject, and that more work is needed. At the end of the article, the possibility is evoked of an alternative, reclaimed or 'real' superfluity, understood as the 'in-the-wayness' of those struggling to transform the conditions in which human superfluity is produced and reproduced.

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