‘UTOPIAN’ AND ‘RADICAL’ are unlikely words to spring to mind in everyday debates about law and governance – but what if the connections they can make are common? In that case, the idea of ‘utopian legalities’ might convey a shared understanding that law and legal frameworks can reimagine and vastly improve social relations. Similarly, ‘radical governance’ might suggest that the governance practices of groups or organisations can disrupt, provoke and transform established institutional structures. If this seems unlikely, posing them as a thought experiment is part of the logic – and the excitement – of exploring these connections. Experiments and simulations with the forms of law and governance stimulate our social and political imagination, and the reverse is equally true. At the same time, prefigurative politics – organising collective action, practices and relationships ‘as if’ a vision of future social change already existed – open up fresh possibilities for how we can design law and governance. Exploring all these possibilities together inspired the creation, in late 2020, of a collaborative research network entitled ‘Utopian Legalities, Prefigurative Politics and Radical Governance’ by Davina Cooper, Amelia Thorpe and Bronwen Morgan under the umbrella of the Law and Society Association. Here, they reflect on the ideas that motivated its development and its potential for exploring new modes of being in the world.
BRONWEN MORGAN: Let’s start with how our work came to focus on ideas of how things could be different. For me, I noticed over my career that a lot of academia is focused on analysis and critique and doesn’t work through what it would mean to explore the creation of alternatives. Davina, you’ve worked on that angle for much longer – it might be much more natural to you. For me, it was definitely an ‘aha’ moment, partway through my career, to think in those terms.
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