Eco, Umberto – Foucault’s Pendulum (1988).

Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum is a crash course in conspiracy theories. The main characters in the book work for a publishing company that begins to cash in on the business of selling books on the occult. While they deal with the authors of these books (whom they nickname the “Diabolicals”) they begin to create “the Plan.” The Plan is a conspiracy theory that they piece together in order to mock the Diabolicals. In the process it surveys an array of secret societies and sects. Its a fascinating book.

As far as the law goes, the only real legal content is an extensive description of the trial of the Templar Knights. Apparently they were all rounded up and put on trial for being sacra religious. It apparently wasn’t a very fair trial either. It makes for some interesting legal history reading, but I can’t vouch for accuracy of the account.

Maybe the more interesting way of reading the book though is not necessarily a legal one, but it is theoretically related. Throughout the book, the characters, both the main characters and the Diabolicals take texts, dissect them and then attribute meanings to the texts. The meanings that are created aren’t true, but they fulfill what the reader is trying to discover. For example at one point there is a reading of a car manual as a Cabala text. This seems to me to be a critique of deconstruction theory. It points out that in deconstruction the reader fulfills the meaning that he was seeking to begin with. Instead of discovering something, the reader fulfills his own prophecy. I bring this up because deconstruction is a theory sometimes applied to the law (see for example Derrida’s deconstruction of the Declaration of Independence). However, Eco’s critique (if that’s indeed what it is) would point to the inherent flaw with this sort of analysis: if the reader seeks a preconceived meaning, then deconstruction will lead the reader to that meaning. This of course means that deconstruction might not be the best way to interpret the meaning of the laws.

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