Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

3 thoughts on “Becoming a ‘Bastion Against Tyranny’: Australian Legal Education and the Government of the Self (2012)

  1. As we know from Foucault the grid, matrix, of power/knowledge/capital is operating here as elsewhere. Kuhn is specific on the scientific paradigm, that graduate school in the sciences is about learning the Discourse of the filed you are in. It is an initiation process and law school is no different. It is bent on “producing” (Baudrillard) the normal lawyer as a consumer product for the state. The ill educated student who goes into law school cannot intellectually confront what he is being indoctrinated in and even if he is he doesn’t have the time to think about that for his studies are so overwhelming. I once took a two seek workshop with Gene Zimmerman who traveled around the country teaching guerrilla law. I know how to do it now and it is utterly time consuming to do it. Exhausting. But it can be done.

    And what is the student debt load of these graduating lawyers? How huge is their student debt? They are backed in a corner with no way out. Which is just the way it is planned.

  2. magicmatthew says:

    Thanks for the comment, seymourblogger. Certainly the process of legal education is about learning the discourses of the field. I have to disagree, though, that the process is one of indoctrination and related to capital and producing consumer products for the state in the way you suggest. While the end result may be a conservative legal persona that upholds the status quo, I argue that the process through which this persona is produced, and the mode of subjection informing it, are quite different.

    Additionally, I am not sure that it can be argued that the issue of student debt – considerable though it may be – is designed to back students into a corner. Who does such designing? How can they be sure that such designs get transferred directly into the lives of students? These are questions that I feel cannot be answered effectively by the critical scholars that have generally dealt with them.

    Such critical scholarship largely overlooks the ways that students are incited to shape themselves according to a variety of discourses, or it explains the loss of student ideals solely as a matter of indoctrination. These approaches tend not to investigate these as involving complex power relations, wherein students are invited to fashion their social ideals in productive ways. It seems that students are either understood in three ways: as passive receptacles for ideological indoctrination; as ‘sell outs’ that have acquiesced to such indoctrination out of their own self-interest; or idealistic students that have been alienated from the curriculum. There is no room for complexity here. While these may be the case, it is also worth considering how the social ideals of students are productively fashioned so that they may maintain their social ideals while at the same time act as a legal professional – which is what I investigate.

    Ultimately, I would argue that such an approach is more useful if the dominant currents of legal education are to be subverted effectively, and those engaging in such resistance are to be aware of the potential dangers of the reforms they suggest, so that ‘these games of power [can] be played with a minimum of domination’, to quote Foucault. It might, for example, be good that the legal professionals in our society avoid subverting the status quo, and undertake only minimal changes to the legal system.

    1. If we take Foucault’s work seriously then power/knowledge are never separate, always in relation to each other, a functional relation. As in sex we can add capital to the relation as in power/knowledge/capital.

      Of course no one does this, no one indoctrinates, it is just part of the Discourse within the grid. In psychiatric power/knowledge Foucault spells it out in his Lectures on Abnormal at the College de France 1974-75. Why do you think psychiatric power Discourse would be any different from legal Discourse.

      As for student debt no one engineered that. Baudrillard clarifies that any concessions or legislation “designed” for our benefit will also have aspects that will limit our freedom. Say health care: They legislate for it and you find that you must go to losing weight classes to continue to receive it. Or stop smoking. All these things are health choices, are things you should be doing anyway, but they increase the tightness of the grid just a little more.

      Resisting the legal system is up to us. We are the only ones who can force change. Lawyers aren’t going to change anything that will curtail their financial reward or power/knowledge place in the grid. There will be a few, but not many.

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