In 2000 an anonymous political scientist (or group of pol scientists) under the guise of Mr Perestroika sent an email to a handful of US political scientists, inviting recipients to forward it to others. Within a few days the text had achieved wide distribution within US academia and has been claimed as opening up the discipline.
'The Perestroika Movement in American Political Science and its Lessons for Chinese Political Studies' by Shelley Rigger in 14(4) Journal of Chinese Political Science (2009) 369-382 commented that -
The Perestroika movement's primary objective was to pull the discipline back from what many political scientists saw as a pervasive drift toward methodological totalitarianism and substantive irrelevance. "Substantive irrelevance" referred to the selection of research questions that lent themselves to “cutting edge” methods—even if they had little relation to the facts and problems facing political actors in the real world. In using the phrase "methodological totalitarianism", the Perestroikans, as they came to be called, were calling attention to their perception that only a narrow range of methods and approaches could pass muster with hiring committees at the top universities and editors at the top journals. That narrow range of methods and approaches excluded much of what had traditionally been included in the discipline of political science.She goes on to note the argument that -
Because publication in the journal is such an important marker of success in the discipline, its preference for a few methods and approaches was making it difficult for scholars who used other methods and approaches to be hired and tenured because their articles were so rarely published in the APSR and its regional offspring. As graduate students became aware of the challenges facing political scientists whose work fell outside the narrow range of acceptable methodologies, some dropped out of the discipline, while others changed their research to make it conform to these preferences—even if it meant sacrificing substantive interest, relevance, even common sense. As Dorian T. Warren put it, "This methodological straightjacket in the broader discipline and in the field of American politics, along with its influence on the subfield of race and politics, impedes relevant and important research on the most pressing political problems facing us today",It is interesting to speculate about disciplinarity within the legal community, in particular the bias of particular law journals (and inded of faculties) towards invocation of cult figures such as Lacan and Derrida (or even of Zizek, Lyotard, Bhabha and Stiegler, as acolytes weary of the old gods) and an an esoteric style that disguises both a lack of originality and insight. The 'Perestroika' concerns might be addressed to cultural or communication studies journals and conferences that appear committed to legitimating the pretensions of particular schools by excluding cross-disciplinary writing, especially writing that does not exhibit the requisite hermeticism, does not invoke the guru du jour or relies on a different methodology.
The irrelevance of cultural studies journals such as Transformations and Semiophagy (note here) is perhaps not be lamented. We might ask however whether legal scholars, given pretensions to offering more than entertainment or an occupation for the bewildered & self-involved (law does, after all, affect people), should ask whether whether there's a need to break down some of the disciplinary silos and to encourage a shift away from the arid, repetitive use of mantras such as "jouissance" encountered at postgraduate law conferences.