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Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge
Mariana Valverde

Hardcover | 2003 | $78.50 | £65.95 | ISBN: 9780691086989
264 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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If knowledge is power, then the power of law can be studied through the lens of knowledge. This book opens up a substantive new area of legal research--knowledge production--and presents a series of case studies showing that the hybridity and eclecticism of legal knowledge processes make it unfruitful to ask questions such as, "Is law becoming more dominated by science?" Mariana Valverde argues that legal decision making cannot be understood if one counterposes science and technology, on the one hand, to common knowledge and common sense on the other. The case studies of law's flexible collage of knowledges range from determinations of drunkenness made by liquor licensing inspectors and by police, through police testimony in "indecency" cases, to how judges define the "truth" of sexuality and the harm that obscenity poses to communities.

Valverde emphasizes that the types of knowledge that circulate in such legal arenas consist of "facts," values, and codes from numerous incompatible sources that combine to produce interesting hybrids with wide-ranging legal and social effects. Drawing on Foucaultian and other analytical tools, she cogently demonstrates that different modes of knowledge, and hence various forms of power, coexist happily.

Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge underlines the importance of analyzing dynamically how knowledge formation works. And it helps us to better understand the workings of power and resistance in a variety of contemporary contexts. It will interest scholars and students from disciplines including law, sociology, anthropology, history, and science-and-technology studies as well as those concerned with the particular issues raised by the case studies.


"The theme of this book is broad and its philosophic argument complex while the specific case study topics are quite narrow and cutting edge."--Choice

"Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge is an important and novel contribution towards the development of a sociology of legal knowledge. . . . [It] is interesting, engaging and refreshing both in its thematology and its style."--Emmanuel Melissaris, The Law and Politics Book Review

"Valverde's book calls attention to a host of oft-overlooked decisions that, taken together, bring slow but steady changes while amounting to subtle forms of control. . . . [T]his is an intriguing work."--Lynn Chancer, American Journal of Sociology


"Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge is a very good book. It is theoretically ambitious, careful in its use of evidence, and persuasive in its claims. It succeeds admirably in contributing to both the sociology of legal knowledge and the study of deviance and its regulation. Moreover, it discusses some of the most interesting and controversial areas of legal regulation. Readers will find themselves moving easily between sophisticated discussions of topics ranging from obscenity and sexual preference to pub licensing. Valverde is an outstanding scholar who writes with great skill and mastery."--Austin Sarat, Amherst College, author of When the State Kills

"Valverde's analysis is important and worthy because she deliberately focuses on the nonscientific and, often, nonexpert decisionmakers who, despite their lack of training or expertise, are responsible for the bulk of legal decisions, and thus legal 'knowledge.' Her approach, relentlessly empirical and resistant to generalization, yields a study that defies easy summary and is both conceptually and theoretically sophisticated."--Patricia Ewick, Clark University

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