Students will learn about the relationship of law to different social and political structures. They will study the processes of making, enforcing and reforming law, from different sociological, historical, and jurisprudential perspectives. Students will study the development of public opinion about law within communities and in the broader society, and the role of public opinion in law reform. They will consider the role of legal reform in defining crime and deviance.
Law is too important a social phenomenon to be analysed in a way that isolates it from other aspects of society and makes impossible an understanding of the complexity of its relations with other social phenomena, its ‘reality’ as a part of life and not merely as a technique of professional practice.
– Cotterrell 1992, 1-2.
Law permeates, penetrates, and regulates social relations and social structures. It is shaped by culture and social institutions, and in turn it shapes culture and serves as the domain of a range of professional actors whose claim to authority is the ability to create, interpret, or apply legal doctrine. Law is a source of political and institutional legitimacy, a mechanism for governance, social control, resistance and repression, and an important terrain of struggle over values, norms, and ideology.
This course is intended to provide an introduction to thinking about the interrelationship between law and society, with an emphasis on issues related to deviance and social control.
We will take a two-pronged approach to the subject matter:
- We will explore the main theoretical traditions in socio-legal studies and the sociology of law (including classical philosophies of natural law, legal legal positivism, the sociological jurisprudence tradition, approaches based on the works of Weber, Durkheim, Marx, and Foucault, and critical legal studies);
- We will study social problems, debates, areas of change, and enduring themes that exist at the intersection of law and society (including concepts such as justice, rule, punishment, and power, and practices such as apartheid, forced sterilization, class conflict, contracts, surveillance, and the declaration of legal exceptions and emergencies).