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Rob Laird
Australian National University

I argue that the ideal of the rational-legal state inflicts structural violence. By reconceptualising the state as a field-of-power in which the ideal of the rational-legal state legitimises bureaucratic authority it can be seen how the bureaucracy is incentivised to anticipate modalities of accountability that demand it conform to that ideal. However, written rules and procedures do not have objectively rational meanings. Consequently, bureaucracy can do no more than anticipate the essentially uncertain standards to which it will be held to account. Bureaucrats find contingent solutions in actual bureaucratic processes. This is because in practice bureaucratic outcomes are a product of relationships of co-production between rules and procedures, the circumstances in which they are applied, the interpretive and material practices of bureaucrats, and the contingencies of accountability. This is shown by drawing upon evidence provided in an Australian court’s examination of the administration of Wielangta forest. The case shows that bureaucrats can utilise relationships of co-production to anticipate and alleviate accountability. This was done at the expense of achieving objectives such as protecting endangered species; thus, producing unintentional structural violence. However, the Wielangta example also indicates that co-production may be instrumentalised to make a preferred violent outcome appear unintentional.

Rob has previously completed a honours in literature at the University of Adelaide. He has over 4 years post admission experience and is currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University where he is focusing on anthropology of law. Rob’s has published on the structural violence of the law and the weapons of the accountable. His recent research focuses on new materialism and its relevance for investigations into law.

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