Sociology of Law

Module code: M3073
Level 6
30 credits in autumn & spring teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Unseen examination

The first part of the module introduces students to a variety of historical and contemporary sociological perspectives on law. Taking the theme of the relationship between law and modernity as its point of departure, this part begins with a consideration of some of the key works of the founders of the sociology of law.

Following this, you are introduced to contemporary literature in both sociology and law that analyses the nature of some important changes in contemporary Western societies (including in politics and the economy), and how these developments may be affecting traditional understandings of the nature and function of law and regulation.

The second part of the module is designed to enable you to think through the ideas and theories explored in part one in the context of a particular institution: the welfare state. The types of question that will interest us here include the following: How has the way in which states provide for the social protection of their citizens altered over time? What role has law played in this? What is 'social law', and how (and why) might its nature have changed in the light of recent developments in the welfare state? What can contemporary social policy reveal about the relationship between the citizen and the state? What is the relationship between law, the welfare state, and the economy today?

We will think through possible answers to these questions via a consideration of some examples from the field of social policy, for instance health care, unemployment, and social housing.

Module learning outcomes

  • Explain and evaluate a range of sociological perspectives on law
  • Explain and evaluate at least one aspect of contemporary social policy
  • Undertake independent research using library and internet resources, as appropriate