Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney
Chapter 4: Critical Legal Studies and a complexity approach: some initial observations for law and policy
Complexity theory is not the first movement to attempt to teach those with an interest in law and legal processes to think differently (see further Fischl, 1987: 510–13). The purpose of this chapter is first to introduce complexity theory to the understanding developed by the Critical Legal Studies movement (CLS), and its proponents ‘the Crits’, and position complexity theory as a logical development from the CLS. The second aim is to provide some initial indication of how this interfacing can enhance understandings of law, policy, and their interaction. There are several tensions to navigate in such an exploration, particularly, for example, where a reader might be unfamiliar with one or other of the theoretical perspectives. As such, I deal only with the possibility of communication between CLS and complexity theory, and from this make some general observations concerning the implications for law and policy, and leave other matters open to future exploration. It is proposed to confine discussion in this regard to the consideration of connected concepts found in CLS and the complexity approach, indeterminacy and destabilization, contingency and emergence, and ongoing critique and self-reflexivity. It should also be borne in mind that the construction and interpretation of law and policy in the modern administrative state is a polycentric process involving many actors operating in a wide range of contexts.
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