The gap between critical and socio-legal studies This chapter is concerned with the relationship between broadly sociological approaches to law, with an emphasis on social and historical processes, and critical or ‘cultural’ approaches with an emphasis on ethical interpretation. Nicola Lacey (1996, p 143) has suggested that there is a ‘seemingly unbridgeable gap’ between critical legal theory and socio-legal studies, which she attributes to the narrow and pragmatic horizons of the latter. There is a question, however, as to whether the relationship is not imperilled on the other side, by the way in which critical legal theory deals with sociological issues. The question is starkly raised in Jacques Derrida’s influential essay ‘Force of law’ (Derrida, 1990), where he describes a ‘critique of law’ that is ‘possible and always useful’. This is ‘a critique of juridical ideology, a desedimentation of the superstructures of law that both hide and reflect the economic and political interests of the dominant forms of society’ (Derrida, 1990, p 941). Useful it may be, but Derrida leaves this ‘sociological’ critique well alone in favour of his pursuit of a ‘more intrinsic structure’. This involves the ‘very emergence of justice and law’ in a ‘performative and therefore interpretive violence’ (ibid). This deeper critique is ethical rather than socio-historical in its form.