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.
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 AssessmentResearch 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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Workload3 contact hours per week. Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course.
Requisite and Incompatibility
Preliminary ReadingPeter 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.
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