Legal Personhood and Power: Seeing Mechanisms of Devaluation and Hyper-Empowerment in Legal Systems


Legal personhood can be understood as the capacity for holding rights and obligations within a legal system, including the ability to make claims and seek remedies in law. Using a systems theory approach (developed by Niklas Luhmann) to understanding law as a series of communications concerning what is "legal" and what is "illegal", I trace examples of how assumptions and constructions in legal communications implicitly strip some human beings of their rights to full personhood at law. The converse is also evident, namely examples of hyper-empowerment, whereby actors in law have the capacity for claims to rights that far exceed their exposure to also holding obligations at law.



Personhood, systems theory, legal systems