Born out of disillusionment with the failures of liberal legalism to deliver social justice or equality, law and society scholarship at the time aimed to expose those failures and challenge liberal legalism’s legitimating premises. Twenty years after the founding of LSA, during the decade of the 1980s, the critical impulse of law and society scholarship was itself put under the microscope by some who turned critique inward, calling out law and society scholars for embracing empty empiricism or for their complicity with legal and political elites. In this period, meta-debates raged over theoretical, methodological, and political questions.
More recently events in the academy and the world seem to have squelched our appetite for critique either of the legal order itself or of the premises and purposes of our own scholarship. In an era when the rule of law has come under sustained attack, can we go beyond celebrating it and allying ourselves with its projects? At a time when there are no dominant theoretical or methodological perspectives in the academy should we turn away from epistemological questions and just get on with our work?
The theme of the 2010 LSA Meeting–After Critique–invites us to consider the law and society enterprise today and to think about its future direction. We want to reflect on the various ways that law and society scholarship has been and should be engaged with the threat of terrorism and governmental responses to it, national and global attacks on the rule of law, questions of sovereignty and sovereign prerogative, the contemporary situation of identity politics, and the collapse of the global economy and the crisis of neo-liberalism.
We also want to think about whether there is anything meaningful and coherent in the phrase “law and society scholarship” as well as how we should position ourselves in relationship to other interdisciplinary enterprises, e.g. critical race theory, empirical legal studies, law, culture, and the humanities, etc. Is it time to revive our critical heritage as well as our traditions of theoretical and methodological self-scrutiny? What would this entail?