• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest Law
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

In contrast to classical jurisprudence critical theory asserts that law is the reflection of the political values. It examines the how law is connected to contemporary political issues, among others, including those related to gender, sexual orientation, race, environment and economics. This course introduces major concepts, questions and perspectives that are important for a critical engagement with the problem of law in contemporary life. It questions the importance and meaning of being 'critical' and interrogates the relationship between law and justice. By following a set of topics fundamental for critical theory the course eflects on the problems of sovereignty, subjectivity, violence, judgment or the nature of government. By applying these critical legal perspectives to a range of contemporary problems and situations the course will show the relevance of critical theory to contemporary study of law and equip the students with the ability to deal with theoretical questions pertaining to issues such as biotechnology, social media, political protest, interdisciplinarity, human rights, social equality or refugee law. This course will review the thought and concepts of the most important critical figures in Western philosophy including Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Synthesise and review central concepts, principles, and debates of contemporary critical legal theory.
2. Distinguish between and investigate the relationship between normative and critical legal theories.
3. Critically evaluate existing legal concepts, practices, techniques and phenomena.
4. Critically interpret and reflect on the role of law in modernity and the way modern law shapes contemporary legal, political and cultural relations.
5. Investigate the place of law among other academic disciplines, practices and concepts.
6. Plan and execute an independent research essay.

Indicative Assessment

Research essay (5,000 words) [ILO 2-6]
Reflective journal covering research methodologies 20% [ILO 1 and 2]
Preparation of discussion group 10% [ILO 4 and 5]

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3 contact hours per week. Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course. 

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a: Master of Laws (7300XLLM, MLLM), Master of Laws specialising in International Law (7300XSINTL), Master of Laws specialising in Law, Governance and Development (7300SLGD), Master of Laws specialising in Environmental Law (7300SEVNL), Master of Laws specialising in Government and Commercial Law (7300SGCL), Master of Laws specialising in International Security Law (7300SISL), Master of Laws in Migration (NLLML), Master of Laws in International Law (NLLIL), Master of Laws in Environmental Law (NLLEN), Master of Laws in Law, Governance & Development (NLLGD), Master of Laws in International Security Law (NLLSL), Master of Laws in Government and Regulation (NLLGR), Master of Laws (Legal Practice) (7312XLLMLP), Master of Diplomacy/Master of Laws (7883SINTL), Master of Legal Practice (MLEGP), Master of International Law (7310XMINTL), Master of Environmental Law (7309XMENVL), Master of Law, Governance & Development (7317XMLGD), Master of International Security Law (7318XMISL), Master of Government and Commercial Law (7313XMGCL); OR Juris Doctor (7330XJD, 7330HJD or MJD) and have completed or be completing five 1000 or 6100 level LAWS courses; OR Juris Doctor - online (MJDOL) and have completed LAWS8712 Australian Public Law & International Law B. Students undertaking any ANU graduate program may apply for this course. Enrolments are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the ANU College of Law for permission number. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed LAWS4288 Critical Legal Theory.

Preliminary Reading

Peter Gabel and Paul Harris, ‘Building Power and Breaking Images: Critical Legal Theory and the Practice of Law’ (1982-83) 11 NYU Review of Law and Social Change 369, 372-4.
Mari J. Matsuda, ‘Looking to the bottom: Critical legal studies and reparations.’ Harv. Cr-cll rev. 22 (1987): 323. 


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $3840
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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