|About this web-site||
w w w . a l a s t a i r h u d s o n . c o m
THE PHILOSOPHY AND PURPOSE OF THIS WEB-SITE
The purpose of this web-site
The purpose of this web-site is to present my work-in-progress as it develops from time-to-time. Ordinary academic publishing makes it difficult to develop a system of thought which crosses intellectual boundaries. This is either because journal articles emerge piecemeal and so cannot cover sufficient ground, or because book publishing is focused on appeal to particular market segments. Particularly in relation to the study of law, academia has become ever more specialised and it is unusual for academics to have more than one or two specialisms: the effect of Research Assessment Exercise in UK universities has been to exacerbate this tendency to focus on gathering a reputation in a particular field.
My goal is to consider the detail of a variety of areas of the law in the context of broader social theory. Therefore this web-site considers a broad range of areas of social theory and philosophy, as well as a number of legal fields in which I have already published.
The contents of this web-site are threefold:
The subject matter covers a large field ranging across analyses of substantive law, legal theory, politics, quotidian cultural commentary and social theory.
My larger project is a personal one. I find that it is through writing and expressing my ideas that I come to understand them better. In that sense all of my books have been part of a single work in progress which I have published in coherent, book-sized chunks. Each new edition has been a radical expansion or focusing of the work which has gone before and therefore has been effectively a new book. Latterly new editions have resembled updates of previous editions more than hitherto: the advent of this on-line publishing factory has made that possible.
The generation of a system of thought
In a time in which meta-theories seem impossible to serious expert, or in which meta-theories (in truth confined to narrow fields) appear to be all too common, it is nevertheless difficult to work in any field without considering the meta-theoretical impact of that work: whether moral, sociological, practical, or whatever.
This web-site therefore offers me a means of developing a zone of engagement across a very wide field of human endeavour. It offers me the ability to think out loud about the things which are important to me: whether they are within the confines of my field's canon or not.
Nevertheless, the splintered nature of work in the social sciences means that it is difficult to develop a system of thought which can be applied across a field of work. Much academic work obliges the individual to look through a telescope the wrong way and to examine only a very narrow field. Talking outside one's field can be treated as warmly as a drunk shouting on a bus. Once immersed in such a field it is difficult for that individual to justify looking outside the field either for new inspiration or for the fulfilment of particular ideas.
Expertise requires a narrowing of your focus if you are to account for all of the elements comprising any individual field, to account for all of the work done by one's peers, to consider all of the issues identified by the increasing number of experts working ever more intensely within such fields. The result, prompted by a need to present more material for the public benefit is, ironically, that experts are less and less able to talk directly to the public precisely because the public cannot hope to assimilate the expert's product without being sufficiently educated in the groundwork of theory and work with which the expert is cognisant.
Thus we have seen the demise of the general intellectual and the rise instead of the expert.
What do I mean by a system of thought? At one level, perhaps all I mean is some account with which I can be satisfied about "what I think about things". More generally, however, I am trying to develop answers to some fundamental questions - such as the manner in which we can understand the inter-action of the individual and the social, and how a variety of legal fields relating to financial services law, trusts law, property law and social welfare law deal with such underlying theoretical questions in different ways.
So, for whom am I generating a system of thought? Well, I am doing it for myself. In which case why publish it on a website? Well, I am publishing it precisely because the self-imposed obligation to publish imposes a discipline on me to develop my thoughts into a form whereby their conscious expression will allow the thoughts to develop and the synergies or dissonances between areas to become more apparent. At its worst this may seem a little like overhearing someone talking to themselves in a library; at its best it might be interesting or useful for you to hear what is going on in what I am pleased to call my mind.
The growth of this site
This site will grow. At any time you visit this site - always assuming its author does not fall under a bus - you should find it larger than the time before and you should find that some at least of its ideas has been refined since last you visited. You will find it infuriatingly brief on ideas which you consider or know to be susceptible of deeper or simply better discussion. I do not apologise for this. If I am to achieve my objective of generating a viable system of thought for myself then I must work on ideas on many fronts over time. Furthermore, it takes a long time to write down the things which rattle around one's brain - so, this site will always be some way behind my research work in the real (as opposed to the virtual) world.
The philosophy underpinning this web-site
The purpose of life, it seems to me, has to do with understanding one's life and forging connections with others - understanding my lifeworld is something I can only achieve by thinking and writing about it. Behind the academic consideration of ideas is a very personal journey.
I retain my copyright to all of the material on this web-site. I will probably be happy for this material to be used for teaching purposes (if you contact me to ask first) or for personal interest. I would not be at all happy if this material were used commercially or otherwise to make money from it, and I certainly do not consent to any reproduction or publication of any material on this site elsewhere without my prior written permission.
Copyright 2006 Alastair Hudson. All rights reserved.