Critical legal studies

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Critical Legal Studies (CLS) is a school of jurisprudence that emerged in the 1970s in the United States. It challenges and seeks to overturn accepted norms and standards in legal theory and practice. CLS scholars use social theory, critical theory, and other interdisciplinary materials to explore the interconnections between law, social structures, and power relations.

Origins and Development[edit | edit source]

CLS originated in the 1970s in the United States, primarily at the Harvard Law School. It was influenced by the civil rights movement, feminist movement, and labor movement. The movement was also influenced by the works of legal realists in the early 20th century, who challenged the formalist conception of law.

Key Concepts[edit | edit source]

CLS scholars argue that law is not neutral or apolitical. Instead, they claim that law is a social construct that reflects and reinforces existing social structures and power relations. They reject the idea that law is a set of rational, coherent principles that can be applied objectively to resolve disputes. Instead, they view law as indeterminate and driven by the values and interests of those in power.

CLS also emphasizes the role of ideology in law. It argues that legal doctrines and concepts often serve to legitimize and perpetuate social inequalities. CLS scholars use techniques such as deconstruction to expose the hidden assumptions and contradictions in legal texts and practices.

Criticisms and Controversies[edit | edit source]

CLS has been criticized for its radical critique of law and its rejection of traditional legal methods. Some critics argue that CLS lacks a positive program for legal reform and that its deconstructive techniques can lead to cynicism and nihilism. However, CLS scholars argue that their approach can help to expose and challenge the injustices and inequalities embedded in the law.

Influence and Legacy[edit | edit source]

Despite its controversies, CLS has had a significant impact on legal scholarship and practice. It has influenced a number of other critical legal movements, including feminist legal theory, critical race theory, and queer theory. It has also inspired a generation of lawyers and activists to challenge the status quo and work for social justice.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD