Big Book Series

Mariana Valverde, University of Toronto

The Journal of Law and Society is running a series featuring senior socio-legal scholars’ own accounts of their intellectual formation. Each author is asked to name one book that was particularly influential. In my somewhat autobiographical article for this series, I explain that as a student (when Foucault was not yet integrated into the English-speaking academy), the book with the most influence on me was Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit.

My article which will appear in the Spring issue 2024 ponders the question of whether the major backlash against both ‘vulgar’ Marxism and structuralist paradigms that swept scholarly circles in the 1980s perhaps threw out the baby with the bathwater. Dialectical thinking was largely discarded, with the exception of Derridean deconstruction — influential mainly in the humanities, not so much in either legal or social science circles.

Some features of ‘the dialectic’ are worth reviving for current use, however, in large part because dialectical reasoning is geared to capturing in though relationality and dynamism. My argument about the possible revival of dialectical reasoning within socio-legal studies should generate interesting discussions about the current state of our theoretical and methodological toolboxes.