Alternative Law Journal
by Garry Hamilton; Australian Legal Monographs - The Federation Press, 2000; 248 pp; $66.00 hardcover.
This work is the result of Dr Hamilton's thesis and is therefore by nature quite technical. Federation Press should be commended as the publisher in undertaking to publish such scholarship. However, it is not a book for the marginally interested reader of insolvency and finance law. The direction of the book and the complex nature of the law mean that it will be a reference text and not something that many will read from cover to cover.
The book is divided into five chapters over 219 pages. One chapter (chapter 2) is 128 pages long. It is regrettable that work was not done to break this chapter into more readable parts.
The topic of the book is most relevant for practitioners in the area. This is due in part to aspects of insolvency and finance law that possess such intricate detail that they require a practitioner's understanding. For other readers the topic will be dull.
Dr Hamilton shows a great deal of original thought, uniqueness and clarity of thought. The book is written in an exemplary legal writing style. How ever, the tone is its biggest drawback. The author at various stages disagrees with two senior academic writers, the author of the ALRC report into insolvency, three judges and a master. Throughout, he agrees with one judge and one academic writer. The reader is left thinking that much is wrong with this topic. Such an outcome is debatable. For readers who concur with Dr Hamilton's critique the government is now working on reform in the area.
Chris Symes teaches corporate law at Flinders University.
by Noel Preston, The Federation Press, 2001; 240 pp; $33.00 softcover
The last few years have seen the publication of a large number of books and professional journal articles on the subject of ethics and practitioners' responsibility, in particular in relation to accountancy and commerce, law, and medicine and other caring disciplines. Many of the volumes are a selection of individual articles by a renowned editor, contributed by authors with, however, their own distinctive perspectives of disparate and usually unrelated dimensions of ethical issues.
It is useful, therefore, to find a book that aims to comprehend this difficult subject within an internally consistent framework. Although its author describes it merely as an introductory and general basic text, 'designed to communicate with those who have never studied philosophy or ethics formally', the work does afford a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of ethical dilemmas encountered in the endeavour to answer fundamental questions about how our lives are to be thought of and lived.
The author faces squarely the issue of what the reader will gain from a study of ethics. He has presented the structure of the book in a format of essentially three sections, directed respectively to the nature of ethics, applied ethics, and in its later chapters, to a wide variety of topics, of which matters of life and death, public responsibility, politics, and the global environment, are examples. These culminate in a perspective on 'cultivating an ethical life' (chapter 10). Throughout, Dr Preston develops a benchmark which he calls 'an ethic of response' by which the philosophical and practical aspects, and thus the ethics of, actions may be evaluated.
Understanding Ethics should be of particular interest to students of other disciplines who seek or need to obtain an insight into the philosophy of ethics, particularly where its study impinges on their area of concerns, without being overwhelmed by theoretical and abstract pursuits. To this end, the book contains in its initial chapters a relatively brief but very useful description of various theories of ethics. This is augmented by a succinct glossary at the end of the volume. Each chapter concludes with a chapter review, a list of suggested further reading, and, importantly, questions for discussion, and case studies, with the aim of helping readers to ensure that the preceding material covered has been digested and, one hopes, absorbed, by engaging their responses to factual situations. The chapters are also introduced by somewhat extensive quotations from other materials that, however, do not always sit well within their context, and may be thought to be of no particular pertinence.
Occasionally the treatment of the philosophical and practical issues selected for analysis is perhaps unduly discursive, and has a tendency to be less in the nature of elucidation and more in the nature of discussion and quotation from other sources. Nevertheless, the width and the depth of the research evident from their use must be admired and appreciated.
Taken together with its quotations and references Understanding Ethics does serve to make readers conscious of significant aspects of the attitudes and choices presented
Frank Armer is a Research Associate at the Faculty of Education, Monash University.
VOL. 27, N0.1, FEBRUARY•2002