The Knowledge Bubble — Something Amiss in Expertopia

42 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2016 Last revised: 1 Feb 2017

See all articles by Pierre Schlag

Pierre Schlag

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: December 14, 2016


Contemporary legal thought can aim at a variety of different objectives: explanation, understanding, interpretation, edification, elucidation, observation, critique, narrative, norm-selection, norm-justification, political action — any of these and more, including all manner of hybrids. Amidst all these possibilities, a new genre is ascendant in legal studies — call it, “knowledge production.” It is intellectually sophisticated, technically rigorous, methodologically scrupulous, and theoretically conversant. Its overt aim is to produce a piece of knowledge that is definitive, enduring, and if at all possible, unassailable. But all is not well. This essay sets forth a series of challenges and problems for this genre of knowledge production. The basic claim is that knowledge production efforts must successfully negotiate the challenges and problems set forth in this essay to succeed. Nonetheless, most knowledge production efforts in American legal thought seem to be only dimly aware of the challenges and problems. Instead, these difficulties are routinely bypassed in order to get on with the knowledge production enterprise. Somewhat vexingly, however, it is precisely the failure to address these difficulties that precludes so much knowledge production in law from actually yielding knowledge in any deep sense of the term. The essay concludes with a description of why and how this matters intellectually, aesthetically, economically, morally, politically, and critically.

Keywords: knowledge, positivist social science, social theory, epistemology, disciplinarity, hermeneutic circle, divisibility, internal perspective, macro, micro, time, temporality, facticity, formalization, dialectic, aesthetics, jurisprudence

JEL Classification: K10, A12, A13, D10

Suggested Citation

Schlag, Pierre, The Knowledge Bubble — Something Amiss in Expertopia (December 14, 2016). Forthcoming, Justin Desautels-Stein and Christopher Tomlins (editors), In Search of Contemporary Legal Thought, Available at SSRN: or

Pierre Schlag (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

UCB 401
Boulder, CO colorado 80309
United States
303-492-3110 (Phone)
303-492-1200 (Fax)

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