Foucault News

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

Jan Christoph Suntrup, Michel Foucault and the Competing Alethurgies of Law, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2016)
doi: 10.1093/ojls/gqw019
First published online: August 9, 2016

Abstract

Law has an epistemic dimension, contributing to the social construction of reality. Legal trials stage the constitution of knowledge, facts and other kinds of truth in accordance with specified rules of procedure and evidence. As legal cultures differ in their conceptions of fairness, of justice, and especially of the nature and depth of the truth envisaged at trial, there is a demand for analytical means that can contribute to a sophisticated comparison of legal procedures of truth production. Some new categories can be found in lectures published in part very recently by Michel Foucault, whose genealogical sketches of juridical forms of truth making have not received the attention they deserve. Foucault distinguishes between three basic forms of legal truth constitution: the test, the inquiry and the examination. As all of these practices are performed in a ritual, liturgical manner, Foucault refers to them as ‘alethurgies’. The critical reconstruction of his foray into the historical stages and transformations of legal truth manifestation not only enables a reassessment of Foucault’s legal thinking, but, more importantly, provides us with categorical devices that might be useful for the comparison of contemporary legal, especially procedural cultures.

Keywords
Michel Foucault truth evidence legal procedures comparative law

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