Sociology of Law (M3073)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn and spring teaching

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.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


50%: Examination (Unseen examination)
50%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 300 hours of work. This breaks down into 42 hours of contact time and 258 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.