Is there any backbone in this fish? Interpretive communities, social criticism, and transgressive legal practice

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    Abstract

    This article examines the social conditions of lawyers' moral agency, through the focus of the work of Stanly Fish. A central concept in Fish's work, and one relevant to understanding the nature of professional groups, is that of "interpretive communities. This notion is examined to reveal its sociological as well as philosophical assumptions, and their implications for legal practice. The article takes issue with Fish's stance on the value of theory for practice and challenges the notion of discreteness of interpretive communities inherent in Fish's position. It argues that the resources for criticism within professional groups are more numerous and powerful than Fish allows. Taking two cases studies, it attempts to demonstrate the transgressive nature of some legal practices. In the final section, redefining the law school's community and interdisciplinary scholarship are suggested as devices for escaping Fish's "net." A critical hermeneutics of legal practice is argued for.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)373-428
    Number of pages56
    JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
    Volume23
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1998

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