Foucault News

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

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, The Skripal Case Through the Lens of Critical Legal Theory,, 2018

How would Michel Foucault interpret the Skripal affair unfolding before our eyes into a major crisis between Russia and the West? This article seeks to draw on the methodology and insights of critical legal theory to analyze and deconstruct the Western narrative of the Skripal case that has resulted in a sharp deterioration of diplomatic relations between Russia and several Western nations following the British government’s formal accusation of Russia as the culprit behind the alleged nerve gas attack on Mr. Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, in Salisbury, England, on March 4th.

As a sub-set of modern Western legal tradition, critical legal theory, and with it the methodology of legal deconstruction, enables us to explore in legal narratives the ‘signs’ and ‘traces’ of bias, predisposition of evidence, and the often subtle ‘pile on’ of hidden political agendas in specific legal conjunctures. In contrast to the positivist and mainstream approach in legal studies, this ‘school of legal thought’ relies on the insights and methodological skills provided by the growing literature on critical legal analysis that draws on such critical thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jurgen Habermas. Foucault’s insights on knowledge/power and the disciplinary nature of law in functioning with the requirements of maintaining hegemony, as well as Habermasian understanding of “systematic distortions” in legal discourses and their “validity norms” by the “mediatizing” influence of power (and geopolitics) are relevant to any work seeking to go beyond the self-rationalizing legal postures, by subjecting the latter to critical legal scrutiny and seeking plausible answers from the totality of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, including the domestic and international variables, probed as objectively and dispassionately as possible.

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About the author: Kaveh L. Afrasiabi is a political scientist and author of several books — on Iran, the Middle East, UN, and international affairs — and numerous articles including in New York Times, Guardian, UN Chronicle, Harvard International Review, and Der Tagesspiegel. His latest book, co-authored with Nader Entessar is titled Iran Nuclear Accord and the Remaking of the Middle East (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018)

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