Australian legal education and the instability of critique

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Abstract

While the word ‘critique’ appears with considerable frequency in contemporary Australian legal education texts, the meaning and the emphasis accorded to ‘critique’ vary widely. This article describes, analyses and explains this inconsistency of meaning and emphasis. Rather than a stable and consistent body of knowledge and practices, legal education can be viewed as a dynamic nexus of at least six distinct and competing discourses: doctrinalism, vocationalism, corporatism, liberalism, pedagogicalism and radicalism. Each of these discourses is simultaneously a form of knowledge and an expression of disciplinary power within the law school. As a form of knowledge, each discourse accords critique a different meaning and a different emphasis. As an expression of power, each discourse is an attempt to normalise a particular approach to the teaching of law and to enhance the status of a particular type of legal scholar. Critique, in a variety of forms, is a strategy deployed by each discourse in order to achieve these objectives and to dominate and displace competing discourses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-405
Number of pages31
JournalMelbourne University Law Review
Volume28
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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discourse
education
corporatism
legal usage
school law
radicalism
liberalism
Law
Teaching
knowledge

Cite this

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abstract = "While the word ‘critique’ appears with considerable frequency in contemporary Australian legal education texts, the meaning and the emphasis accorded to ‘critique’ vary widely. This article describes, analyses and explains this inconsistency of meaning and emphasis. Rather than a stable and consistent body of knowledge and practices, legal education can be viewed as a dynamic nexus of at least six distinct and competing discourses: doctrinalism, vocationalism, corporatism, liberalism, pedagogicalism and radicalism. Each of these discourses is simultaneously a form of knowledge and an expression of disciplinary power within the law school. As a form of knowledge, each discourse accords critique a different meaning and a different emphasis. As an expression of power, each discourse is an attempt to normalise a particular approach to the teaching of law and to enhance the status of a particular type of legal scholar. Critique, in a variety of forms, is a strategy deployed by each discourse in order to achieve these objectives and to dominate and displace competing discourses.",
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Australian legal education and the instability of critique. / James, Nickolas.

In: Melbourne University Law Review, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2004, p. 375-405.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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