The writings of Slavoj Žižek have greatly expanded our understanding of how social stratification is maintained through ideology. However, those writing on the ideological operation of law are yet to engage with Žižek’s work. This thesis draws on Žižek’s multifaceted definition of ideology to provide unique insights into the ways that law is implicated in the maintenance of systemic inequality in liberal democracies. Ideology is defined as incorporating four interdependent and interrelated axes. The first axis, discourses, explains how communicative networks often controlled by the powerful lead people to view contingent, cultured and historic concepts necessary for social hierarchy as universal, egalitarian or eternal. It is asserted that the dominant legal norms of individual freedom and formal equality act in this way by masking the systemic oppression prevalent in liberal democracies. These norms also permeate abstract individualism and colonise popular understandings of two potentially revolutionary concepts.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Griffith University, 2016.