Law's Dream of a Common Knowledge

Princeton University Press
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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.

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About the author

Mariana Valverde is Professor at the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, where she teaches social and legal theory. She is the author of Diseases of the Will, The Age of Light, Soap, and Water, and Sex, Power, and Pleasure.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Feb 9, 2009
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9781400825561
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Jurisprudence
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Mariana Valverde
Toronto prides itself on being “the world’s most diverse city,” and its officials seek to support this diversity through programs and policies designed to promote social inclusion. Yet this progressive vision of law often falls short in practice, limited by problems inherent in the political culture itself. In Everyday Law on the Street, Mariana Valverde brings to light the often unexpected ways that the development and implementation of policies shape everyday urban life. Drawing on four years spent participating in council hearings and civic association meetings and shadowing housing inspectors and law enforcement officials as they went about their day-to-day work, Valverde reveals a telling transformation between law on the books and law on the streets. She finds, for example, that some of the democratic governing mechanisms generally applauded—public meetings, for instance—actually create disadvantages for marginalized groups, whose members are less likely to attend or articulate their concerns. As a result, both officials and citizens fail to see problems outside the point of view of their own needs and neighborhood. Taking issue with Jane Jacobs and many others, Valverde ultimately argues that Toronto and other diverse cities must reevaluate their allegiance to strictly local solutions. If urban diversity is to be truly inclusive—of tenants as well as homeowners, and recent immigrants as well as longtime residents—cities must move beyond micro-local planning and embrace a more expansive, citywide approach to planning and regulation.
Mariana Valverde
Toronto prides itself on being “the world’s most diverse city,” and its officials seek to support this diversity through programs and policies designed to promote social inclusion. Yet this progressive vision of law often falls short in practice, limited by problems inherent in the political culture itself. In Everyday Law on the Street, Mariana Valverde brings to light the often unexpected ways that the development and implementation of policies shape everyday urban life. Drawing on four years spent participating in council hearings and civic association meetings and shadowing housing inspectors and law enforcement officials as they went about their day-to-day work, Valverde reveals a telling transformation between law on the books and law on the streets. She finds, for example, that some of the democratic governing mechanisms generally applauded—public meetings, for instance—actually create disadvantages for marginalized groups, whose members are less likely to attend or articulate their concerns. As a result, both officials and citizens fail to see problems outside the point of view of their own needs and neighborhood. Taking issue with Jane Jacobs and many others, Valverde ultimately argues that Toronto and other diverse cities must reevaluate their allegiance to strictly local solutions. If urban diversity is to be truly inclusive—of tenants as well as homeowners, and recent immigrants as well as longtime residents—cities must move beyond micro-local planning and embrace a more expansive, citywide approach to planning and regulation.
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