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 10: Law and deconstruction

Johan van der Walt


The explication of ‘deconstruction’ put forward in this short chapter seeks to recover the radicality of the idea of deconstruction that Jacques Derrida developed in his writings. It does so by uncoupling ‘deconstruction’ from the law and from any attempt to employ it in the service of better or ‘more just’ law. Although Derrida was undoubtedly committed to any political or epistemological strategy that could lead to improvements of law that would render it ‘more just’ from a by and large social democratic point of view, it would be a mistake to believe that he considered strategies of deconstruction employable or necessary for such purposes. Notwithstanding the fact that he sometimes produced phrases or passages that seem to call for an employment of deconstruction for purposes of making the law more just, he evidently considered the aim of deconstruction, more rigorously understood, an endeavour to precipitate an experience with ‘an outside’ which dominant social and textual discourses programmatically expel from experience.

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