Research Handbook on Critical Legal Theory
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Research Handbook on Critical Legal Theory

Edited by Emilios Christodoulidis, Ruth Dukes and Marco Goldoni

Critical theory, characteristically linked with the politics of theoretical engagement, covers the manifold of the connections between theory and praxis. This thought-provoking Research Handbook captures the broad range of those connections as far as legal thought is concerned and retains an emphasis both on the politics of theory, and on the notion of theoretical engagement. The first part examines the question of definition and tracks the origins and development of critical legal theory along its European and North American trajectories. The second part looks at the thematic connections between the development of legal theory and other currents of critical thought such as; Feminism, Marxism, Critical Race Theory, varieties of post-modernism, as well as the various ‘turns’ (ethical, aesthetic, political) of critical legal theory. The third and final part explores particular fields of law, addressing the question how the field has been shaped by critical legal theory, or what critical approaches reveal about the field, with the clear focus on opportunities for social transformation.
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Chapter 2: Critical legal realism in a nutshell

Dennis M. Davis and Karl Klare


‘Critical Legal Realism’ (CLR) refers to a major branch of the Critical Legal Studies movement in the United States (mid-1970s to mid-1990s). CLR pursued two theory projects in tandem: promoting the reception into US legal thought of modernist and postmodernist social and cultural theory, and recovering and extending techniques of legal criticism developed by the Legal Realists and their predecessors going back to sociological jurisprudence and the revolt against formalism at the turn of the twentieth century. This chapter outlines CLR’s main theoretical claims and approaches beginning with critical analytics and the salience of legal culture, proceeding to ideas about the legal construction of the social order, and concluding with transformative possibilities in legal work. Themes discussed include legal indeterminacy; the experience of legal ‘boundedness’; gaps, conflicts and ambiguities in legal discourses; the constitutive role of legal rules, practices and discourses; the distributive and ideological stakes of law; and the way in which interrogation of background legal rules may reveal transformative possibilities.

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