Doing critical-socio-legal theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Theory is an intellectual activity that is creative, exploratory, and experimental. It is not separate from practice or from empirically based knowledge, but is interwoven with experience. As a scholarly exercise, theory brings to the foreground the concepts embedded in life and thought, and provides some tools for reflecting upon and challenging these concepts. It is both personal and collective. Theory is therefore normative, because it is a guide for thought, as well as transformative of concepts and practice; it can be seen as dynamic and ‘prefigurative’ in the sense that it brings an imagined future into the present. This chapter endeavours to explain theorising as an activity and a process, rather than as a static set of principles, concepts, or abstractions. In the context of law, theorising is understood in several different ways, but the terms attached to different forms of theory are conceptually indistinct and increasingly of little relevance. I illustrate these points with some reflections about my recent book, Law Unlimited, in which a series of moves are deployed: these moves include the unlimiting, synthesizing, flattening, and prefiguring of conceptual forms of law.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Socio-Legal Theory and Methods
EditorsNaomi Creutzfeldt, Marc Mason, Kirsten McConnachie
Place of PublicationAbingdon, United Kingdom
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429952821, 9780429952814
ISBN (Print)9781138592902
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • socio-legal research
  • theory construction
  • critical theory


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