|legal theory: critical theory|
A family of new legal theories, launched since 1970, share commitments to criticize not merely particular legal rules or outcomes, but larger structures of conventional legal thought and practice. According to critical legal scholars, dominant legal doctrines and conceptions perpetuate patterns of injustice and dominance by whites, men, the wealthy, employers, and heterosexuals. The "Crits" argue that prevailing modes of legal reasoning pretend to afford neutral and objective treatment of claims while shielding structures of power from fundamental reconsideration. Critical theorists also maintain that despite the law's claims to accord justified, determinate and controlled expressions of power, law fails on each of these dimensions and instead law mystifies outsiders in an effort to legitimate the results in courts and legislatures.
The "critical" dimension of critical legal studies includes not only efforts to expose defects, but also affinity with other theoretical projects and social movements. A variety of scholars and lawyers have joined together to organize symposia, workshops, and other projects under the headings of critical legal studies, feminist legal theory, and critical race theory. Although they share many points of departure and methods of attack, critical theorists also risk diverging into increasingly specialized narrow splinter groups. The newest developments include Lat-Crit conferences and work inspired by Queer Theory in other academic fields. Critical theorists engage in particular critiques of other theoretical approaches to law, such as law and economics and moral-theory approaches to legal theory.