641 Sociology of Law - §002, Fall 2011

Categories: Legal Theory and Jurisprudence Human Rights

Instructor(s) Huneeus, Alexandra

This course explores the main debates and schools of thoughts within socio-legal studies. The goal is to expose students to the various ways in which social scientists think about law and legal institutions, and how law matters to society, politics and culture. The course is divided into five units. The first unit introduces students to the meta-theories about the origins of law, and of the relation of law to society. The second unit introduces theories of legal behavior: why do people obey, or not, the law? The third unit explores the resolution of disputes, and how actors and the institutions in which they are embedded shape the outcomes. The fourth explores the question of the relation between law and social change: can law be used to shape politics and society? And how, in turn, does societal change affect law? Finally, the fifth unit turns to law beyond the nation-state, exploring the dynamics of plural legal orders above and below the nation-state.

The course is comparative in scope, and takes an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses psychology, political science, anthropology and legal scholarship as well as sociology. Students are encouraged to seek contrasts and commonalities across these various topics and across the differing disciplinary approaches. The course material is appropriate for both advanced undergraduates and graduate/law students, although the reading expectations will be somewhat higher for the latter than for the former. Discussions and assignments on contemporary legal issues will provide opportunities to draw connections between sociological theories and current events.

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