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School of Law

Law & Critique

Course Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 2

This course provides students interested in critical thought with rigorous methodological and analytical foundations that will be useful to them in their study of the law and beyond. The course will allow students to engage in high level debates of a diverse tradition of critical thought in studying the law and the intersection between law and society as well as other fields of knowledge. It introduces students to primary texts of different critical legal approaches, including: literary critiques of law, American legal realism, critical legal studies, critical race theory, law and society movement, and ideology critique. The course also shows the genealogy of critique as different critical theories evolve not only in reaction to dominant ideas in law but also in reaction to other critical theories. These critiques are applicable to different legal fields and hence the classes will be divided into different themes as well as different critical schools and authors. These themes include, the analytics of rights, law and distribution, law and recognition, law and race, law and social change, and hierarchy in legal education.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • Master a variety of analytical tools in critical theories of law;
  • Critically engage with legislation and case law in different contexts through the critical tools they acquire in this course;
  • Analyse sophisticated theoretical interventions through engagement with, and close reading of, primary texts of critical legal scholars;
  • Distinguish between the different strands of critical thought: legal realism, critical legal studies, critical race theory, and law & society movement;
  • Reflect on, compare, and assess the different methods used by critical theorists, e.g.: analytical philosophy, structuralism, post-structuralism, comparativism, empirical studies, genealogy;
  • Express and apply an inter-disciplinary understanding of the law by seeing the connections between the law and other disciplinary fields and applying different philosophical, sociological, and historical materials to the conceptualization of the law;
  • Draw the connection between similar questions and critical moves in different legal fields (be it administrative law, private law, constitutional law).          

Method of assessment

  • Three reaction papers each worth 10% (1000 words)
  • Coursework: 70% (3500 words)

Suggested reading

  • Crenshaw, Kimberle Williams. 1988. Race, Reform and Retrenchment: Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law, 101 Harvard Law Review 1331.
  • Hohfeld, Wesley. 1913. Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning, 23(1) Yale Law Journal 16.
  • Kafka, Franz. 2009. The Trial (Oxford University Press)
  • Kennedy, Duncan. 1991. The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault! 15 Legal Studies Forum 327.
  • Rosenberg, Gerald. 2008 The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? (2nd ed.)