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Ballad of a Thin Man: Sociolegal Studies in a Time of Postmodern Crisis
Law & Society Review
  • Jonathan Simon, Berkeley Law
Publication Date
This article comments on a speech by Boaventura de Sousa Santos which was addressed to the Law and Society Association during its Annual Meeting on June 3, 1995 in Toronto, Canada, about the metaphors of a new conception of law. According to Santos, what is taking place, as of 1995, is simultaneously a crisis of subjectivity and government. The project of emancipation, Santos suggests, has collapsed into regulation. Santos offers three metaphors for the kinds of knowledge and law which may facilitate the construction of postmodern subjectivities. In the frontier, the baroque, and the South, Santos finds emancipatory possibilities. He also recognizes that new forms of government may develop there which will prove anything but emancipatory. Frontiers create special problems of government. The tightening control is palpable to anyone who has visited the international portions of airports and harbors. The very possibility of the heterodox calls forth strategies of ordering and surveilling that would be considered unnecessary in the interior. The works most capable of addressing Santos' post-paradigmatic dilemma are ones that will speak across questions of government and subjectivity. To govern is to assure the existence of governable subjects. To be a subject is to recognize some limit in the form of regulation.
Citation Information
Jonathan Simon, Ballad of a Thin Man: Sociolegal Studies in a Time of Postmodern Crisis, 29 Law & Soc'y Rev. 631 (1995)