Abstract: E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India presents Brahman Hindu jurisprudence as an alternative to British rule of law, a utilitarian jurisprudence that hinges on mercantilism, central planning, and imperialism. Building on John Hasnas’s critiques of rule of law and Murray Rothbard’s critiques of Benthamite utilitarianism, this essay argues that Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu in the novel endorse polycentric legal systems. Mr. Turton is the local district collector whose job is to pander to both British and Indian interests; positioned as such, Turton is a site for critique and comparison. Forster uses Turton to show that Brahman Hindu jurisprudence is fair and more effective than British bureaucratic administration. Forster’s depictions of Brahman Hindu are not verisimilar, and Brahman Hindu does not recommend a particular jurisprudence. But Forster appropriates Brahman Hindu for aesthetic and political purposes and in so doing advocates a jurisprudence that does not reduce all experience to mathematical calculation. Forster writes against the Benthamite utilitarianism adopted by most colonial administrators in India. A tough figure to pin down politically, Forster celebrates the individual and personal relations: things that British rule of law seeks to suppress.
Abstract: In 2007, I toured Moundsville Penitentiary, a tourist spectacle that was once—and fairly recently—a working prison. I wrote about the experience as would a journalist, except that my working paradigm was the postmodern theory of hyperreality, which Jean Baudrillard used to describe the complex tensions between reality and illusion. A term of semiotics, hyperreality refers to the disappearance of the referent and its subsequent, oft-replicated simulation. It almost always involves strategically controlled images that distort and conceal true meaning. The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies published my essay in January 2009. Shortly thereafter, many of my libertarian friends and colleagues wrote to ask for clarification or to express their disagreements. In what follows, whether I’m describing hyperreality or speculating about the horror-themed attractions at Moundsville Penitentiary, my principal concern is laying the libertarian foundation for my argument. I do not mean to defend my theories so much as explain them; nor do I insist that my cultural criticism is somehow “the” right way. I simply hope to fill a critical vacuum and to generate conversation not only about the condition of the American prison system writ large, but also about state-run tourist attractions that glorify the history of the sovereign at the expense of real knowledge about human suffering.