Food for Thought: “Four sociologists walk into a bar …”

This week, are looking at Elizabeth Comack’s (2008) excellent survey of “Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law”. The essay begins with a discussion of the Official Version of Law, which Naffine (1990: 24) describes as “what the legal world would have us believe about itself”. Comack goes on to discuss the relationship between the Official Version of Law and various classical and contemporary socio-legal perspectives. In class, we reviewed the functionalist, liberal-pluralist, and Marxist approaches and discussed their responses to the claims of the Official Version of Law.

This ‘food for thought’ post will make use of a scenario, and invite you to write a script or dialogue.

The scenario:

The annual Law & Society conference has just wrapped up, and, as is custom, some presenters have decided to sit down at the campus pub to continue their conversation. Four colleagues share a table. The first, who works for the Department of Justice, is a staunch supporter of the Official Version of Law. He believes that the OVL accurately reflects the values and practices of the Canadian legal system. The second is a feminist legal scholar, who has worked in both the radical and socialist traditions. The third works in the critical legal studies tradition, and specializes in race and the law. The final participant is a postmodern legal theorist.

As is often the case, the representative of the Official Version of Law begins to make some sweeping statements about the legal system. The other three decide that this would be a good time to intervene and respond to their colleague’s claims.


Write a post in the form of a script for a conversation between these colleagues. I will start things off by providing you with the opening statement made by the representative of the Official Version of Law. Your task is to prepare responses for the other three. Remember: this is a conversation, and the participants should speak in the first person. Their responses should reflect their theoretical affiliations. You may draw on Comack (2008), but avoid direct quotes. Note that you do not have to provide an overview of the main features of each perspective. You need only script the participants’ responses to the claims of the OVL (in general – you do not have to respond to every point). Top marks will go posts that make creative, convincing arguments that make use of illustrative examples. Have fun!

Responses to this food for thought question will be accepted until 19:00 on September 18.

Official Version of Law (OVL) Advocate: Have you been to the court recently? They have installed an excellent new statue of Lady Justice. Very impressive – and a perfect symbol for the legal system. The legal system is, after all, an impartial, neutral and objective system for resolving social conflict.

It is autonomous, separate from political and social influences – and therefore free from external values and corruption. Legal decisions are based on facts and rules, not individual or group values external to the law.

Lady Justice symbolizes the Rule of Law, which is a central feature of the legal system.

Ultimately, the legal system is just. It is committed to equality – so committed, in fact, that it deals with people as abstract legal subjects. This ensures that everyone is treated the same.

I’m sure that you will agree …

Feminist Legal Theorist:

Racialization and Law Theorist:

Postmodern Theorist:


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