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 12: Law is a stage: from aesthetics to affective aestheses

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos


Legal aesthetics is increasingly less about looking at law and aesthetics or art together, and rather about understanding the aesthetic practices the law employs in order to prove itself socially relevant. This is not an isolated legal phenomenon but largely a consequence of a shift in aesthetics as a whole, from the ontology of definition (beauty, art, sublime) to the new ontology of apparition (or staging). This means that the law must stage itself in a consumer-oriented way, to market itself in a socially engaging way, and to package itself in a media-appetising way in order to legitimise itself and its continuous social role. From the society of discipline (Foucault) to that of control (Deleuze), and now to that of self-staging, the law deals with the need for legitimation by marketing itself as desirable. This legal ‘selfie’, as it were, relies on manipulation of affects to generate an atmosphere in which the law can carry on proving itself relevant. In this chapter, after surveying the established connection between law and art/aesthetics, I engage with the shift from aesthetics of definition to aestheses of immersion, namely immersion into affects that involve sensorial and emotional responses. In order to demonstrate this empirically, I look into the experimental performance ‘No Feedback’ (London 2015) that dealt with issues of atmosphere engineering, distinction as aesthetic choice and aesthesic immersion.

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