The hopeful edges of power

Radical governance and acting ‘as if’

Featured in

  • Published 20210803
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-62-7
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

‘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.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Bronwen Morgan

Bronwen Morgan is professor of law at the Faculty of Law and Justice at UNSW Sydney and co-founder of the New Economy Network of...

More from this edition

Astronomy as poetry

MemoirI BELIEVED IN it. I more than believed in it – I was obsessed. It was a vision of something amazing, something I thought could never...

Life on JobKeeper

MemoirIN SEPTEMBER 2020, two months into Melbourne’s second lockdown, I was in my local park doing my allotted hour of physical activity when a pleasant...

Dystopian photo album

PoetryBuried in slough of immaculate lust We wave off the iron-man model Coughing up money and fake lottery tix Ipso facto zippers and guylines, Flysheets and groundsheets, door...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.