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Cautious postmodern and legal truths

Wickham, G. (1989) Cautious postmodern and legal truths. Law in Context, 7 (2). pp. 39-53.


Postmodernism is currently attracting critical support in a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, literature, art, architecture, history, politics, and sociology. It is not surprising then that it is of more than passing interest for many who teach and research in the area of law. In this essay I offer words of encouragement and words of caution to this interest. Postmodernism can be useful for those analysing legal sites, but it can also be a trap.

Anyone at all familiar with debates on postmodernism will know that it means different things to different disciplines and indeed different things within different disciplines. In the first section I discuss some definitions of postmodernism and highlight an important contradiction between them; a hint of the trap of postmodernism. In exploring this contradiction, I offer a working definition of postmodernism for law. It is suggested that this definition can be the basis for developing a postmodern framework for law.

In the second section I develop this framework to some extent and point out some of its advantages. In the third section I expand on my hint about the trap of postmodernism. I argue that postmodernism too readily becomes its own totality, too readily becomes a framework for all occasions. In the fourth section I argue that if postmodernism is to prove useful for legal analysis then we must adopt no more than a cautious postmodern framework for law. In the fifth and final section I demonstrate one important use for this cautious postmodern framework-the consolidation of some of Foucault's arguments on truth into a theory of the politics of legal truths.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Publisher: La Trobe University
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