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Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge

Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge

Mariana Valverde
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge
    Book Description:

    If knowledge is power, then the power of law can be studied through the lens of knowledge. This book opens up a substantive new area of legal research--knowledge production--and presents a series of case studies showing that the hybridity and eclecticism of legal knowledge processes make it unfruitful to ask questions such as, "Is law becoming more dominated by science?" Mariana Valverde argues that legal decision making cannot be understood if one counterposes science and technology, on the one hand, to common knowledge and common sense on the other. The case studies of law's flexible collage of knowledges range from determinations of drunkenness made by liquor licensing inspectors and by police, through police testimony in "indecency" cases, to how judges define the "truth" of sexuality and the harm that obscenity poses to communities.

    Valverde emphasizes that the types of knowledge that circulate in such legal arenas consist of "facts," values, and codes from numerous incompatible sources that combine to produce interesting hybrids with wide-ranging legal and social effects. Drawing on Foucaultian and other analytical tools, she cogently demonstrates that different modes of knowledge, and hence various forms of power, coexist happily.

    Law's Dream of a Common Knowledgeunderlines the importance of analyzing dynamically how knowledge formation works. And it helps us to better understand the workings of power and resistance in a variety of contemporary contexts. It will interest scholars and students from disciplines including law, sociology, anthropology, history, and science-and-technology studies as well as those concerned with the particular issues raised by the case studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2556-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    If knowledge is power, so, too, are power relations also knowledge relations, truth relations. While theology has often served as a public arena for the playing out of disputes about how and where to seek the truth, in the present day, and particularly in largely secular multicultural societies, law has become a privileged site in which people either seek the truth themselves or comment on the truth-seeking efforts of others. This dimension of law is not always acknowledged. Law students are told, for example, that law is only interested in particular truths—who committed this crime, how the liability for...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Art of Drawing the Line: Judicial Knowledges of Community Morality and Community Harms
    (pp. 28-53)

    Critical studies of law and sexuality usually deploy some version of the repression hypothesis in order to explain law’s constant effort to draw a line separating legally stigmatized images and words from the larger universe of representations inciting sexual desire. Explorations of how legal authorities impose sexual norms through law often conclude that law is just another mechanism for sexual oppression, misogyny, homophobia, and/or repression. This kind of conclusion reproduces a now discredited functionalist way of thinking, even as it infuses it with new content. Certain laws or uses of law are explained by reference to their supposed usefulness (functionality)...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Forensic Gaze: Law’s Search for Moral Clues
    (pp. 54-85)

    Much work has been done by feminist and queer scholars on the legal regulation of what is often called “the body.” Indeed, a large number of articles and books in the literature in this area use the term “thebody” in the title, often to signal the use of some kind of materialist perspective to critique legal moralism. And yet when one looks at various legal moves to define and regulate bodily vices and bodily disorder, one rarely finds bodies as such, that is, whole bodies. What one finds is a proliferation of bodily parts, substances, and gestures. Reading Les...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Beyond Sexuality?
    (pp. 86-111)

    This chapter and the next examine the formation of a relatively novel socio-legal object, sexual orientation. By considering the kinds of knowledges that have been deployed by activists and litigants, it is possible to make a contribution not only to the sociology of law but also to our collective understanding of that elusive entity “sex,” whose historicity and flexibility has often been declared but seldom carefully investigated. It is important not to exaggerate the reach of the “new”: numerous areas of North American law, particularly in the United States, remain wholly contained within the terms of Foucault’s famous analysis of...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE “The Lifestyle That Fits the Doctrine of Sexual Orientation”
    (pp. 112-140)

    Twenty years ago, lesbians and gay people did not speak in terms of “sexual orientation,” either to describe their psychosexual identity or to give a name to political struggles. “Gay liberation” was the most popular term of art in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This analogized the homosexual rights movement to women’s liberation (which had not yet been replaced by feminism) and to national liberation movements. The term “gay liberation,” however, has now become archaic. Politically both activists and politicians speak about “the gay movement” or about “sexual orientation issues”; even at the personal level, many lesbians and gays...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Police Science, British Style: Pub Licensing and Knowledges of Urban Disorder
    (pp. 141-166)

    In discussing Foucault’s account of the emergence of liberal governance and liberal governmentality in the late eighteenth century, Colin Gordon writes:

    Liberalism discards the police conception of order as a visible grid of communication; it affirms instead the necessarily opaque, dense autonomous character of the processes of population. It remains, at the same time, preoccupied with the vulnerability of these same processes, with the need to enframe them in “mechanisms of security.” (1991, 21)

    The ultimate goal of thePolizeiwissenschaft, or police science, that developed in European cities well before the rise of public police forces (Knemeyer 1980; Neocleous 1998,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN “Common Knowledge Must Enter the Equation Somewhere”: Knowledge as Responsibility
    (pp. 167-192)

    The previous chapter outlined some of the historical roots of the knowledges and the governing practices used in today’s systems of liquor licensing. In Britain, as in North America (Valverde 1998a, chap. 7), the knowledges of drinking deployed in the work of licensing and the work of reforming licensing laws are, for the most part, knowledges of urban disorder, rather than, for example, knowledges of individual health. As such, they exhibit the formal and substantive features of “police” knowledges generally, such as the format I call “the epistemology of the list.”

    Continuing to explore how authority is built and used...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Racial Masquerades: White Inquiries into “the Indian Style of Life”
    (pp. 193-221)

    Liquor laws have been an important tool for drawing racial lines in Canada since colonial times, as they have been in the United States and in many countries formerly within the British Empire. Examining the operation of these laws in a broad-stroke manner suggests that, although liquor laws are no longer race-specific on their face, they still play a role in constituting racial and cultural identities. That racespecific liquor laws and their less race-specific successors construct “Indianness” is, of course, hardly a surprising finding; but what was not anticipated at the outset of this research was the extent to which...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Conclusion
    (pp. 222-228)

    The main task of this book has been to document the formation of a number of knowledges in legal arenas. In exploring epistemological fields that lie between the high-level knowledges of scientists and experts and the lay, experiential understanding of law’s practical workings documented by the “everyday life of law” tradition, we have encountered certain knowledge processes—which are simultaneously power processes—that are not exactly unknown but whose function and significance have hitherto gone unremarked. Let us first review some key findings of each chapter, followed by a few more general, future-oriented reflections.

    After explaining, in chapter 1, the...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-247)