| Law & Society
P610 | 1438 | Parnell
I think that one of the most interesting aspects of law is the varied ways in which it manifests
itself in society. No matter how great the effort to make law and legal systems autonomous,
ultimately the living law is shaped by society and culture. This course will focus, first of all, on
ways to conceptualize law in order to discover it within a wide range of social institutions. The
debate about what law is and should be remains dynamic and has generated innumerable ways to
define law, including those that allow law to exist and develop outside of state-based institutions.
As David Luban states,
The intellectual problem of legal theory may be superficially summed up in a
Kuhnian cliché: legal theory lacks a paradigm. Economists and feminists,
sociologists and doctrinalists, centralists and pluralists, positivists and purposivists, are unable
even to agree on the boundaries of the object they are studying, let alone the propositions that are
true of that object.
Once we have eliminated the boundary of conceptualizing law solely for the purposes of state-based institutions, with the proposition in hand that law can exist within a wide range of social
arrangements, and assuming, as Leopold Pospisil suggests, that a multiplicity of legal systems
can exist within a society, we will discuss the implications of legal pluralism for legal planning
and policy, for practices of law enforcement, and civil rights. Of course, these issues remain hotly
contested ground, so we will try to place notions about law in their political and cultural contexts.
Some of the most exciting work on the nature of law and context in modern (and postmodern)
society has been produced within critical legal studies, or what some call the critical legal studies
Much of criminal justice research presents a view of law developed from within specifically legal
institutions. This course will also ask What does state-based law look like from the bottom up,
that is, when viewed from within the lower socio-economic strata of society. I may draw on some
of my own research for this section. Students will also be required to choose and read an
ethnography or semi-ethnography of law. The ethnography can be chosen from any cultural area,
including the United States. I will provide a list of ethnographies of law.
I hope this seminar will be interactive. The reading list will not be cast in stone, and I will be
happy to alter and add to it as paths of inquiry develop out of our discussions.
Readings may include but are not limited to the following:
Roberto Unger's "Law in Modern Society - Toward a Criticism of Social Theory"
Mark Kelman's "A Guide to Critical Legal Studies"
Allan Hutchinson (ed) "Critical Legal Studies"
David Luban's "Legal Modernism"
Richard Collier's "Masculinity, Law and the Family"
Bourdieu's 1987 "The Force of Law,"
Nader and Todd's 1978 "The Disputing Process - Law in Ten Societies"
Sally Falk Moore's 1973 "Law and Social Change: The Semi-Autonomous Field
as an Appropriate Subject of Study"
Nader's 1965 "Ethnography of Law"
Requirements: My goal is not to require a lot of reading, but to examine in depth what
specific readings tell us about the nature of law in society and the underlying assumptions about
law that guide research and policy. Each week students will be asked to write a thoughtful four-
to five-page summary and analysis/critique of an assigned reading. I will also ask that you write
a ten-page analysis/critique of your chosen ethnography. If you would like to relate this course to
a paper or project, I will be happy to work with you in that area as well.
Class Meeting: One 150-minute seminar each week (M, 2:30-5:00P, SY 210)
Above section open to CJUS Graduates only
Course Will Satisfy: CJUS Masters program credit
Instructor: Professor Phil Parnell, Criminal Justice Department