Theoretical Positions, Teaching Experiments and Learning Experiences
Edited by Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries
Chapter 7: Learning law differently: the importance of theory and methodology
I like the word [curiosity] … . It evokes “care”; it evokes the care one takes of what exists and what might exist; a sharpened sense of reality, but one that is never immobilised before it; a readiness to find what surrounds us strange and odd; a certain determination to throw off familiar ways of thought and to look at the same things in a different way; a passion for seizing what is happening now and what is disappearing; a lack of respect for the traditional hierarchies of what is important and fundamental. I recently gave a paper where, explaining that I was adopting a ‘Foucauldian perspective’, I mentioned rather flippantly that my methodology was ‘governmentality’. I took for granted that my audience would know what I meant – govern/mentality is, as it says in the word itself after all, a mentality of government and hence a way of thinking about the processes of governing. I have always understood this process of thinking as a methodology. However, I was challenged on this and pushed to explain my viewpoint. Surely governmentality is not a methodology but a ‘theory’? I do not agree but it made me think more deeply about what a methodology is, how if at all it differs from theory and also how – given I was in a room full of non-lawyers – it is relevant to the study of law.
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