Critical Perspective in Psycho-Legal Research: New Directions in Citizen Justice and Social Change

Bruce Arrigo, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

The law-psychology movement emerged in the 1960s with an avowed commitment to humanizing the law and legal decision making, guided by psychological values and insights. Many observers note that this "critical" orientation has mostly failed to meet its objectives, unable to produce social change in any radical or otherwise sustainable way. One explanation for the movement's disappointing results is that no systematic and thorough attempt has been made to explain what the "critical" paradigm embodies, especially in relation to idsentifying its core assumptions. This presentation describes five, cutting-edge approaches to contemporary psycholegal inquiry. These include the perspectives of: (1) political economy; (2) feminist jurisprudence; (3) anarchism; (4) postmodernism; and (5) chaology. individually, these orientations provide a clearer portrait of what critical scholarship in the academy has come to represent. Collectively, these approaches suggest a new and much needed direction in law-psychology research, especially for advancing the aims of justice in the legal sphere. Accordingly, this presentation concludes by discussing the implications of a critically-informed psychological jurisprudence for future theoretical investigations, empirical analyses, and policy formulations in the field.

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Updated 05/20/2006