Law and Society
Full course description
Legal scholars generally focus their attention on the law as it appears in books, i.e. legal rules. They look at formal manifestations of the law, such as constitutions, statutes, judicial decisions and court structures. While this is certainly an important aspect of studying law, we would miss a large part of reality if we limited our attention to the formal structures of law and ignored the larger social context in which law operates. While law in action bears some resemblance to law in books, law as a social phenomenon is often far more complex than is apparent from the formal manifestations of law alone. This course looks at the law in action: it studies law as a social phenomenon. Only if we understand how the major elements of a given legal system function together in a specific social context can we really understand how law affects society and how society in turn shapes the law.
The first part of the course will introduce the sociological study of law. We will provide an overview of the field, discuss several prominent theoretical approaches and examine various methods of researching socio-legal questions. The second part of the course will examine several legal processes in detail, using the tools that were developed in the first half of the course. In particular, we will look at the organization and making of law, law as a means of social control, dispute resolution and law as a means of social change. We will also look st current developments in the interrelation of law and society. In the second part of the course, students are also encouraged to actively work with the theoretical frameworks studied in the first part (or explore others that were not discussed in the course) in writing a socio-legal research paper.
- To study law as a social phenomenon and discuss several theoretical approaches to law and society.
- To examine a variety of legal processes, such as conflict resolution, lawmaking, social control and change, and to seek to understand how they function empirically.
- To examine and understand the interrelations between law (as an academic discipline) and other fields of study.
- To understand current and future development trends in the nexus of law and society (e.g. legal developments in response to automatization, digitalization, and artificial intelligence or in response to new research results in psychology and neuroscience).
SSC1029 Sociological Perspectives, SSC1007 Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning, or SSC1003/SSC2065 Theories of Social Order.
- Sutton, J.R. (2001) Law/Society: Origins, Interactions, and Change. Pine Forge Press, Thousand Oaks – London (available as a full-access e-book through the University Library).
- A number of books, articles and book chapters, available (through databases to which UM is licensed) on Student Portal.