Public Law and Legal Theory Project

Current project

This project interprets its constituent terms as broadly as possible. By public law we mean not only the contemporary doctrines and principles of constitutional law, administrative law and human rights law, for example, but rather (and possibly more importantly) the concepts that have animated the public law tradition in its historical and modern forms: right, legality, legitimacy, sovereignty, constituent and constituted power, statehood, rule of law, democracy, representation, the general will, the public sphere, wherever encountered. In turn, the project seeks to engage these terms from the plural perspectives of a legal theory understood to go beyond the jurisprudential traditions routinely encountered in Anglo-American legal scholarship (analytic and normative jurisprudence, for example) and to include insights and methodological approaches drawn from the ‘continental’ philosophical and political theory archive (Nietzsche, Foucault, Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, Agamben, Brown, Butler). The intellectual aim of the project is to utilise this rich (and possibly contradictory) source of legal theoretical insight in order to problematise and reflect upon the foundational concepts listed above. The intent is both theoretical and critical. The project aims to produce theoretical knowledge about these concepts not in the sense of a complete and bounded set of insights but rather in the sense of a deep reflection on their conceptual status, their historical entailments and their contemporary operations; theoretical also in the sense of a set of exploratory and experimental theses not mortgaged to a particular ‘practical’ or immediate political outcome. The project aims to generate critical insights in a political sense but not simply in the mode of ‘opposition’ or ‘rejection’ but of ‘problematisation’ as Foucault, and others, have understood that term – a troubling, a destabilisation.