This is an online copy of “Sociology of Law.” Bibliography in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Sociology, edited by Jeff Manza. Oxford University Press, 2015. First posted in 2011.
Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 2015. “Sociology of Law.” Bibliography in Oxford Bibliographies Online: Sociology, edited by Jeff Manza. Oxford University Press. URL: http://oxfordbibliographiesonline.com/view/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0056.xml
The sociology of law refers to the sociological study of law and law-related phenomena, whereby law is typically conceived as the whole of legal norms in society as well as the practices and institutions that are associated with those norms. Dating back to the classic works by Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, the sociology of law has partly also evolved in conjunction with intellectual efforts within legal scholarship, where a specialty of sociological jurisprudence developed. The sociology of law was for some time primarily part of the multidisciplinary field of law-and-society studies or the law and society movement, but it has in more recent years grown into a relatively autonomous branch of theory and research in sociology. It is from within the theoretical and methodological contours of the sociological discipline that the sociology of law derives its unique approach and value as a contribution to the social-scientific study of law. The number, quality, and variety of available writings in and about the sociology of law reflect its scholarly and institutional growth as a respected sociological specialty.
The tension between the sociology of law as a specialty in the broader discipline of sociology, on the one hand, and as one approach among others in the law-and-society field, on the other hand, is sharply reflected in the general works that are available about the subject matter. Some works on the sociology of law do not distinctly deal with the sociological study of law but instead provide overviews of the multidisciplinary field of law and society or they treat the sociology of law in more general terms (as a social science) or, in very few cases, even as an approach in legal scholarship. Fortunately, some works provide overviews of the sociology of law as a sociological field of specialization in relation to long-standing themes and perspectives in the discipline at large. Deflem 2008 and Tomasic 1985 provide sociological overviews, as do Arnaud 1981 and Gephart 1993 in non-English works. Calavita 2010 provides no specific disciplinary grounding, while Cotterrell 1992 offers a work in jurisprudence.
Arnaud, André-Jean. 1981. Critique de la raison juridique: 1. Où va la sociologie du droit? Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.
Analysis of the intellectual development of the sociology of law, with special attention to the broadening of research areas, especially in European sociology.
Calavita, Kitty. 2010. Invitation to law & society: An introduction to the study of real law. Chicago Series in Law and Society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
Provides an overview of various themes in law-and-society studies based on the author’s teaching experience. Written by a sociologist, but lacking in disciplinary focus.
Cotterrell, Roger. 1992. The sociology of law: An introduction. 2d ed. London: Butterworths.
While providing good summaries of various theoretical ideas in the sociology of law, this book conceives of it as an approach in legal scholarship, not in sociology.
Deflem, Mathieu. 2008. Sociology of law: Visions of a scholarly tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Provides an overview of the scholarly and professional development of the sociology of law as a disciplinary specialty, with particular attention to its theoretical foundations and the increasing variation in empirical research themes.
Gephart, Werner. 1993. Gesellschaftstheorie und Recht: Das Recht im soziologischen Diskurs der Moderne. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.
Excellent discussion of major theoretical issues in the sociology of law. Written in German, this book also shows the sharper development of such questions in some non-English-speaking countries.
Tomasic, Roman. 1985. The sociology of law. London: SAGE.
Provides a general overview of the sociology of law as well as an illustration of some of its usefulness with reference to a number of empirical subject matters.
Indicative of the need to establish itself as a separate sociological specialty, the sociology of law has produced a large number of edited volumes with contributions of both theoretical and empirical works. Additionally reflecting the peculiar status of the sociology of law in between sociology, on the one hand, and legal scholarship, on the other, are the various mixtures in these works of both sociological and legal writings. Among the older works, Brantingham and Kress 1979 and Carlen 1976 offer critical overviews broadly indebted to Marxism, while Evan 1962, Evan 1980, and Schwartz and Skolnick 1970 offer more traditional perspectives. Simon 1968 and Sarat 2004 lack disciplinary focus, while Abel 1995 and Larson and Schmidt 2014 are specifically multidisciplinary in orientation. Ferrari 1990 and Baier 2013 testifies to the global nature of the development of the sociology of law.
Abel, Richard, ed. 1995. The law and society reader. New York: New York Univ. Press.
A collection of articles originally published in the Law & Society Review. Organized by different substantive topics, the collection admirably reveals the multidisciplinary of the journal’s best works.
Baier, Matthias, ed. 2013. Social and legal norms: Towards a socio-legal understanding of normativity. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.
This collection is written from the interesting sociological viewpoint of the study of norms that is associated with the Swedish school of the sociology of law institutionalized at Lund University.
Banakar, Reza, and Max Travers, eds. 2013. Law and social theory. 2d ed. Oxford: Hart.
This volume presents a broad overview of the various theoretical traditions in the sociology of law and law and society scholarship, with additional chapters on selected substantive topics such as legal pluralism and globalization.
Brantingham, Paul J., and Jack M. Kress, eds. 1979. Structure, law, and power: Essays in the sociology of law. SAGE Research Progress Series in Criminology 13. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
A typical early overview of the sociology of law that provides a wide variety of papers. Emphasis on critical perspectives, indicative of the popularity of Marxism during the 1970s.
Carlen, Pat, ed. 1976. The sociology of law. Sociological Review Monograph 23. Keele, UK: Univ. of Keele.
An overview of papers on the sociology of law, with special emphasis on the growing influence of Marxist perspectives.
Evan, William M., ed. 1962. Law and sociology: Exploratory essays. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
An overview of works on the sociology of law written from the then-highly influential perspective of structural functionalism.
Evan, William M., ed. 1980. The sociology of law: A social-structural perspective. New York: Free Press.
Another overview from the viewpoint of structural functionalism and, more broadly, macro-sociological perspectives.
Ferrari, Vincenzo, ed. 1990. Developing a sociology of law: A world-wide documentary enquiry. Milan: Dott A. Giuffrè Editore.
Contributions on the development and state of the sociology of law in various national cultures, testifying to the global rise of the sociology of law.
Larson, Erik, and Patrick Schmidt, eds. 2014. The law and society reader II. New York: New York Univ. Press.
Following up on the Abel 1995 collection, this is a second collection of excerpts from articles that were originally published in the Law & Society Review. The selection mostly focuses on works by established authors in the law and society field.
Sarat, Austin, ed. 2004. Blackwell companion to law and society. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Published in a series of sociology books, Blackwell Companions to Sociology, this compendium was edited by a nonsociologist and features several nonsociological contributions.
Schwartz, Richard D., and Jerome H. Skolnick, ed. 1970. Society and the legal order: Cases and materials in the sociology of law. New York: Basic Books.
A splendid and very elaborate early collection of writings on the sociology of law, seeking to establish this pursuit as a worthy sociological specialty.
Simon, Rita J., ed. 1968. The sociology of law: Interdisciplinary readings. Chandler Publications in Anthropology and Sociology. San Francisco: Chandler.
Indicative of the variable understandings of sociology of law, this collection seeks to attain interdisciplinary objectives.
There are numerous textbooks available in the broader law and society field, most of which provide general introductions to the study of law from the viewpoint of various social science traditions, but some of which are written by sociologists and/or at least give prominence to the sociological study of law. The latter works can therefore be seen as textbooks in the sociology of law rather than in law-and- society studies. Yet only few textbooks are devoted distinctly to the sociology of law as a specialty in, and related to the major strands of, the discipline sociology. Friedrichs 2011 and Vago 2011 lack much disciplinary focus, while Barkan 2008, Milovanovic 2003, Sutton 2001, Treviño 1996, and Turkel 1996 are more distinctly sociological in orientation. Rehbinder 2009 and Röhl 1987 again testify to the strength of the sociology of law outside of the English-speaking world.
Barkan, Steven A. 2008. Law and society: An introduction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Oriented at both sociological and interdisciplinary undergraduate courses, this textbook reviews a number of substantive social concerns of law, including law and inequality, law and social control, and courts.
Friedrichs, David O. 2011. Law in our lives: An introduction. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Written for undergraduate students, this textbook provides an introduction into a number of empirical themes in the sociology of law and law-and-society scholarship, such as law and culture, the legal profession, and law and social change.
Milovanovic, Dragan. 2003. An introduction to the sociology of law. 3d ed. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice.
A theoretically oriented and challenging introduction to the sociology of law, with special emphasis on semiotics and postmodernism.
Rehbinder, Manfred. 2009. Rechtssoziologie. 7th ed. Kurzlehrbücher für das juristische Studium. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck.
An excellent introduction to the sociology of law, especially from a theoretical viewpoint, this German textbook shows the high standards in university-level education of the sociology of law in some countries.
Röhl, Klaus F. 1987. Rechtssoziologie: Ein Lehrbuch. Cologne: Carl Heymanns Verlag.
A good mix of empirical and theoretical themes, this German book demonstrates the value of contributions in the sociology of law in countries with long-standing intellectual traditions in the sociological discipline.
A good mix of empirical and theoretical themes, this German book demonstrates the value of contributions in the sociology of law in countries with long-standing intellectual traditions in the sociological discipline.
Sutton, John R. 2001. Law/society: Origins, interactions, and change. Sociology for a New Century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.
An overview of selected theories and themes in the sociology of law, with special emphasis on findings from empirical research.
Treviño, A. Javier. 1996. The sociology of law: Classical and contemporary perspectives. New York: St. Martin’s.
A usefully broad if somewhat unsystematic introduction to theories in the sociology of law.
Turkel, Gerald. 1996. Law and society: Critical approaches. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
A fruitful mixture of empirical and theoretical themes, this book has a solid sociological orientation despite its aim to provide a broader law-and-society work.
Vago, Steven. 2011. Law and society. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
The single most influential textbook in law and society as well as, because of its use in university teaching, in the sociology of law, this work is entirely lacking in disciplinary orientation and provides only rudimentary overviews of selected subject matters related to law.
There are very few bibliographies available on the sociology of law, although most of the general works, compilations, and textbooks contain elaborate bibliographical overviews. Rehbinder 1975 is a bibliographical effort, along with reflective essays on the development of the sociology of law, which has a European emphasis. Treviño 2008 provides the only real bibliographical book in the sociology of law. It focuses mostly on theoretical works
Rehbinder, Manfred. 1975. Sociology of law: A trend report and bibliography. Current Sociology 20.3. The Hague: Mouton.
A brief overview of the development of the sociology of law with bibliographical notes. The emphasis is largely on European traditions.
Treviño, A. Javier. 2008. The sociology of law: An expanded bibliography of theoretical literature. 4th ed. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.
A volume that is mostly oriented at theoretical works, this book is the only bibliography available on the sociology of law that is printed in book form.
The classical period in the formation of sociology was extremely productive with explicit respect to the sociological study of law. In fact, law was among the central themes in the works of many classical scholars, even though later developments in sociology were less explicitly devoted to the study of law. The pursuit began to reemerge, however, especially from the 1960s onward, in the wake of the development of the law-and-society tradition. Several classical scholars, such as Marx and Weber, were trained in law and in varying degrees devoted their theories to the role of law in society. In view of their contemporary influence, the writings of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim deserve special attention.
Arguably the most influential social thinker of all time, Marx was not influential in the sociology of law until discussion of his theories began, as late as the 1960s and 1970s, in the sociology of law as part of a broader trend toward the adoption of Marxian ideas in sociology at large. Marx’s works were theoretically among the most powerful in the modern sociology of law even though he was largely silent on law, as his interests remained largely focused on the economic conditions of social evolution. Marx 1842 is one of Marx’s very few writings that explicitly deal with a matter of law. Beirne and Quinney 1982 and Cain and Hunt 1979 provide collections of relevant writings by and about Marx’s philosophy of law. Cain 1974, Hirst 1972, Spitzer 1983, and Stone 1985 offer sympathetic introductions to the relevance of Marx for sociology of law. Quinney 1973 provides an early systematic attempt to apply Marx to the study of modern law.
Beirne, Piers, and Richard Quinney, eds. 1982. Marxism and law. New York: Wiley.
Excellent overview of writings by and about Marx pertaining to his philosophical ideas relevant for the study of law.
Cain, Maureen. 1974. The main themes of Marx’ and Engels’ sociology of law. British Journal of Law and Society 1.2: 136–148.
Showing how late the influence of Marx came into the sociology of law, this paper from the 1970s provides a sympathetic analysis on the value of Marx to the sociology of law.
Cain, Maureen, and Alan Hunt, eds. 1979. Marx and Engels on law. Law, State, and Society 1. New York: Academic Press.
Compilation of the central works of Marx on law into one volume.
Hirst, Paul Q. 1972. Marx and Engels on law, crime, and morality. Economy and Society 1.1: 28–56.
Programmatic statement on the value of a Marxist sociology of law.
Marx, Karl. 1842. Debates on the law on thefts of wood. Rheinische Zeitung 298, suppl. (October 25).
One of the very few writings by Marx that explicitly dealt with law, this paper critically discusses a new law that was passed in Marx’s days. A useful illustration of the nature of Marx’s social philosophy and its practical implications. Translated by Clemens Dutt.
Quinney, Richard. 1973. Critique of legal order: Crime control in capitalist society. Boston: Little, Brown.
This book-length study provides an early example of the way in which the sociology of law can apply the ideas of Marx for the empirically oriented study of law in modern society.
Spitzer, Steven. 1983. Marxist perspectives in the sociology of law. Annual Review of Sociology 9:103–124.
While Marx’s work was a late influence on the sociology of law, it was immediately very popular. Spitzer has written an early overview of the Marxist tradition in the sociology of law.
Stone, Alan. 1985. The place of law in the Marxian structure-superstructure archetype. Law and Society Review 19.1: 39–68.
An exposition of the place of law in Marx’s thinking, meant to convince the reader of the value of the Marxian ideas.
It is beyond dispute that the work of Weber is the single most influential classical contribution to the sociological study of law. Not only does Weber’s work count among the most significant and foundational developments in sociological thinking, it also devotes very substantial and elaborate attention to the role and evolution of law in society. Weber 1978 and Weber 1954 provide the central ideas of Weber’s sociology, in general, and his sociology of law, in particular. Albrow 1975, Cain 1980, Trubek 1985, and Zeitlin 1985 provide helpful introductions. Ewing 1987 and Andrini 2004 offer theoretical discussions.
Albrow, Martin. 1975. Legal positivism and bourgeois materialism: Max Weber’s view of the sociology of law. British Journal of Law and Society 2.1: 14–31.
Discussion of Weber’s sociology of law from a critical viewpoint, indicative of the growing influence of Marx alongside of Weber during the 1970s.
Andrini, Simona. 2004. Max Weber’s sociology of law as a turning point of his methodological approach. International Review of Sociology/Revue Internationale de Sociologie 14.2: 143–152.
Discussion of Weber’s sociology of law in the light of the evolution of his broader oeuvre.
Cain, Maureen. 1980. The limits of idealism: Max Weber and the sociology of law. Research in Law and Sociology 3:53–83.
A theoretical reflection on Weber’s sociology of law from the viewpoint of Marxist sociology.
Coutu, Michel. 2013. Weber reading Stammler: What horizons for the sociology of law? Journal of Law and Society 40:356– 374.
Argues for the centrality of Weber’s critique of Stammler, especially for the study of law and the demarcation of normative and empirical legal orders.
Ewing, Sally. 1987. Formal justice and the spirit of capitalism: Max Weber’s sociology of law. Law and Society Review 21.3: 487–512.
An excellent in-depth exploration of central theoretical themes in Weber’s sociology of law. Written by an anthropologist, the paper shows the influence of Weber beyond the contours of sociology.
Trubek, David M. 1985. Reconstructing Max Weber’s sociology of law. Stanford Law Review 37.3: 919–936.
Another fine discussion of Weber’s theories on law, written by a legal scholar and published in a law review, testifying to Weber’s influence in the field of law.
Weber, Max. 1954. Max Weber on law in economy and society. Edited by M. Rheinstein. Translated by Edward Shils and Max Rheinstein. New York: Simon and Schuster.
The famous chapter on the sociology of law from Weber’s Economy and Society was separately translated and published in the United States in the 1950s even before other chapters were translated. Originally published in 1922.
Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Edited by G. Roth and C. Wittich. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
The major collection of Weber’s theoretical writings in sociology, this book provides an excellent overview of his thinking, including his ideas on the sociology of law. Originally published in 1922.
Zeitlin, Irving M. 1985. Max Weber’s sociology of law. University of Toronto Law Journal 35.2: 183–214.
An introductory overview of Weber’s sociology of law. Like many other such introductions, this paper is published in a law review rather than a sociology journal.
Durkheim’s work is intellectually as central to the development of sociology as are the writings of Weber. In matters of the study of law, also, Durkheim’s contributions are considerable and, in terms of its impact to the sociology of law, arguably second only to Weber’s. Durkheim 1984, Durkheim 1992, and Durkheim 1983 include Durkheim’s most important writings on law. Selections thereof are compiled in Lukes and Scull 1985. Clarke 1976 and Cotterrell 1977 provide introductions to Durkheim’s sociology of law, while Cartwright and Schwartz 1973 offers an influential empirical analysis.
Cartwright, B. C., and R. D. Schwartz. 1973. The invocation of legal norms: An empirical investigation of Durkheim and Weber. American Sociological Review 38.3: 340–354.
A highly influential empirical study on the validity of Durkheim’s theory of legal evolution that inspired several other empirical studies and aided the discussions on classical sociology in terms of its relevance for empirical research.
Clarke, Michael. 1976. Durkheim’s sociology of law. British Journal of Law and Society 3.2: 246–255.
A useful introductory exposition of Durkheim’s thinking on law, emphasizing its key aspects.
Cotterrell, Roger. 1977. Durkheim on legal development and social solidarity. British Journal of Law and Society 4.2: 241–252.
An overview of the central themes in Durkheim’s sociology of law, written by the leading scholar on Durkheim’s approach to law.
Durkheim, Emile. 1983. The evolution of punishment. In Durkheim and the law. Edited by S. Lukes and A. Scull, 102–132. Law in Society. New York: St. Martin’s.
Durkheim’s seminal formulation of the changes in punishment and the elaboration of the prison system. Originally published in 1901.
Durkheim, Emile. 1984. The division of labor in society. Translated by W. D. Halls. New York: Free Press.
In this early work, Durkheim wrote most explicitly about his theory on law, specifically the evolution from repressive to restitutive law. Originally published in 1893.
Durkheim, Emile. 1992. Professional ethics and civic morals. Translated by Cornelia Brookfield. Routledge Sociology Classics. London: Routledge.
A lesser-known book of lectures; in this work Durkheim provided important ideas on the relationship between law, democracy, and rights. Originally published in 1900. First published in English in 1957.
Lukes, Steven, and Andrew Scull, eds. 1985. Emile Durkheim and the law. Law in Society. New York: St. Martin’s.
A useful selection of Durkheim’s most central writings on law, along with a competent introduction by the editors.
Smith, Kenneth. 2014. Émile Durkheim and the collective consciousness of society: A study in criminology. New York: Anthem.
An exposition of Durkheim’s theory of collective consciousness and its relevance for the study of law, especially punishment and social control.
Other Classical Scholars
Besides the likes of Weber and Durkheim, several other scholars had a role in the development of the sociology of law around the turn of the 20th century and during the years before World War II. Unifying these scholars’ works are their various attempts to formulate and institutionalize the sociology of law as a viable research domain. Petrazycki 1955 and Ehrlich 1962 are influential classical works. Gurvitch 1942, Timasheff 1937, and Timasheff 1976 are significant in the further development of the sociology of law, especially from a theoretical viewpoint. Gorecki 1975, McDonald 1979, and Schiff 1981 offer relevant introductory overviews.
Ehrlich, Eugen. 1962. Fundamental principles of the sociology of law. Translated by Walter L. Moll. New York: Russell & Russell.
The Austro-Hungarian scholar Ehrlich was among the first to propose a science of law in opposition to a normative theory of law. He proposed a focus on living law as the social dimension of law beyond the more narrow juridical conception of law. Originally published in 1913.
Górecki, Jan, ed. 1975. Sociology and jurisprudence of Leon Petrazycki. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.
A useful compilation of essays on the Russian scholar who was instrumental in the development of a scientific theory of law, especially in the (eastern) European sociology of law.
Gurvitch, Georges. 1942. Sociology of law. New York: Philosophical Library and Alliance Book Corporation.
A veritable sociology of law was proposed and developed by this student of Petrazycki, whose influence is considerable until this day, especially in France.
McDonald, Pauline. 1979. The legal sociology of Georges Gurvitch. British Journal of Law and Society 6.1: 24–52.
An excellent overview of the work of Gurvitch, especially useful for introductory purposes.
Petrazycki, Leon. 1955. Law and morality. 20th Century Legal Philosophy 7. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
This compilation of papers by the Russian scholar provides a useful glimpse into his thinking on law, although several other ideas of his are not available in English translation. Originally published from 1905 to 1907.
Schiff, David. 1981. N. S. Timasheff’s sociology of law. Modern Law Review 44.4: 400–421.
A concise overview of the sociological ideas of an important student of Petrazycki.
Timasheff, Nicholas S. 1937. What is “sociology of law”? American Journal of Sociology 43.2: 225–235.
An early programmatic statement on the need for a sociology of law by this student of Petrazycki.
Timasheff, Nicholas S. 1976. An introduction to the sociology of law. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
In this book, Timasheff proposes an elaborate theory on the sociology of law that seeks to take the work of Petrazycki out of legal scholarship and make it more distinctly sociological. Originally published in 1939.
There is a direct line of influence from the classical tradition to the modern sociology of law. As such, the single most critical moment in the development of the sociology of law as we know it today was the work of Talcott Parsons and its influence and reception, including the various criticisms that were raised and the new theories that evolved after him. However, besides sociology itself, the modern sociology of law also benefited from developments in law or jurisprudence and legal scholarship. Some influences on the sociology of law, then, were distinctly nonsociological. This section therefore includes subsections on the legal influences of the sociology of law; empirical contributions and programmatic statements; the contribution of structural functionalism; the pure sociological perspective; and some other modern perspectives.
Historically, the sociology of law both benefited from jurisprudential scholarship by receiving interesting stimuli for sociological reflection, but was also hindered in its autonomous development by the appropriation of sociological ideas in law. Until today, the relationship between sociology and law remains difficult. Pound 1942 and Pound 1943 are works in sociological jurisprudence, which indirectly influenced the sociology of law. Such developments are further discussed in Hunt 1978, Auerbach 1966, and Riesman 1957, which all argue for the relevance of sociology to legal scholarship. Galanter 1974, Unger 1976, and Unger 1986 are groundbreaking works in critical legal studies, of which Fitzpatrick and Hunt 1987 provides a discussion.
Auerbach, Carl A. 1966. Legal tasks for the sociologist. Law and Society Review 1.1: 91–104.
An early statement that the sociology of law is relevant to legal scholarship and legal policy, indicating the need felt by some sociologists of law to relate their works to discussions in legal scholarship.
Fitzpatrick, Peter, and Alan Hunt, eds. 1987. Critical legal studies. Oxford: Blackwell.
An excellent compendium of papers on critical legal studies, a leftist intellectual orientation in law that also received a lot of attention from sociologists of law.
Galanter, Marc. 1974. Why the “haves” come out ahead: Speculations on the limits of legal change. Law and Society Review 9.1: 95–160.
Among the single most influential papers in the law-and-society tradition, this article has also influenced much sociological work on law and inequality.
Hunt, Alan J. 1978. The sociological movement in law. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.
An authoritative statement of the need to be more sociological in legal scholarship, which was widely read and highly influential, especially among legal scholars and members of the law and society movement.
Pound, Roscoe. 1942. Social control through law. Powell Lectures on Philosophy at Indiana University, 6th series. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.
The most influential statement on the perspective of sociological jurisprudence and the relation between law and sociology.
Pound, Roscoe. 1943. Sociology of law and sociological jurisprudence. University of Toronto Law Journal 5.1: 1–20.
A neglected but very sharp formulation of the differences between the sociology of law, on the one hand, and sociological jurisprudence, on the other, written by the founder of the latter perspective.
Riesman, David. 1957. Law and sociology: Recruitment, training and colleagueship. Stanford Law Review 9.4: 643–673.
Among the earliest writings in modern sociology discussing the relationship between sociology and law, written by one of the most influential social scientists.
Unger, Roberto M. 1976. Law in modern society: Toward a criticism of social theory. New York: Free Press. A groundbreaking study of the role of law in society, written from a critical viewpoint.
Unger, Roberto M. 1986. The critical legal studies movement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
A manifesto of the perspective of critical legal studies written by one of its intellectual founders.
Empirical Contributions and Programmatic Statements
In the period after World War II, the sociology of law grew to become a sociological specialty under the influence of at first rather isolated writings that included both empirical studies as well as theoretical explorations. These writings led the way toward a more systematic development of the sociology of law as an institutionalized specialty field in sociology. Chambliss 1964 is an influential empirical study on the sociology of law, while Gibbs 1966, Rose 1962, and Turk 1976 provide programmatic statements. Early overviews of modern sociology are offered by Aubert 1963, Davis 1957, Selznick 1959, and Skolnick 1965.
Aubert, Vilhelm. 1963. Researches in the sociology of law. American Behavior Scientist 7.4: 16–20.
An early overview of empirical work in the sociology of law.
Chambliss, William J. 1964. A sociological analysis of the law of vagrancy. Social Problems 12.1: 67–77.
Among the most influential empirical studies in the sociology of law, this work analyzes the development of laws on vagrancy from a historical and structural viewpoint that eventually would evolve into a Marxist orientation.
Davis, F. James. 1957. The treatment of law in American sociology. Sociology and Social Research 42.2: 99–105.
An early overview of the manner in which law was studied in the sociological community.
Gibbs, Jack P. 1966. The sociology of law and normative phenomena. American Sociological Review 31.3: 315–325.
A theoretical formulation of the manner in which law can be studied sociologically, with special attention toward the construction of testable formal theories.
Rose, Arnold M. 1962. Problems of tomorrow: Some suggestions for research in the sociology of law. Social Problems 9.3: 281–284.
An interesting if somewhat unsystematic paper aimed at stimulating research in the sociology of law, written by a notable scholar.
Selznick, Philip. 1959. The sociology of law. In Sociology today: Problems and prospects. Edited by R. Merton, L. Broom, and L. S. Cottrell Jr., 115–127. Researches in the Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Sciences. New York: Basic Books.
An early overview of the sociology of law as a specialty by one of the founders of the institutionalist perspective on the study of law and organizations.
Skolnick, Jerome H. 1965. The sociology of law in America: Overview and trends. Social Problems 13.1: 4–39.
An early overview of theoretical and empirical works in the sociology of law.
Turk, Austin T. 1976. Law as a weapon in social conflict. Social Problems 23.3: 276–291.
Among the first critical presentations of a systematic theory of law in society.
Post–World War II sociology was theoretically dominated by the perspective of structural functionalism. The chief theoretical architect of this movement was Talcott Parsons. Lesser known but theoretically significant in formulating the contours of a sociology of law are Parsons’s writings on law. They indicate the relevance of classical sociology to modern sociology in the study of law as well as the central demarcation between sociology of law and legal scholarship. Parsons 1954, Parsons 1962, Parsons 1968, and Parsons 1978 are the most important works on the sociology of law by the intellectual leader of the structural-functionalist perspective. Damn 1976 and Rocher 1989 offer discussions of Parsons’s sociology of law. Evan 1990 provides a functionalist theory of law. Deflem 1998 undertakes a relevant empirical analysis.
Damm, Reinhard. 1976. Systemtheorie und Recht: Zur Normentheorie Talcott Parsons’. Schriftenreihe zur Rechtssoziologie und Rechtstatsachenforschung 37. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot.
This German-language work provides an excellent overview of the central themes in Parsons’s sociology of law.
Deflem, Mathieu. 1998. The boundaries of abortion law: Systems theory from Parsons to Luhmann and Habermas. Social Forces 76.3: 775–818.
An empirical analysis based on the work of Parsons and its relative value vis-à-vis other contemporary systems theories.
Evan, William M. 1990. Social structure and law: Theoretical and empirical perspectives. SAGE Library of Social Research 180. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.
A late effort to formulate a functionalist theory of law by a former student of Parsons.
Parsons, Talcott. 1954. A sociologist looks at the legal profession. In Essays in sociological theory. Rev. ed. By Talcott Parsons, 370–385. New York: Free Press.
Parsons’s first effort in the sociology of law focuses on the legal profession as an extension of his long-standing interest in the professions. First published in 1952. E-book.
Parsons, Talcott. 1962. The law and social control. In Law and sociology: Exploratory essays. Edited by W. M. Evan, 56–72. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.
A perspective of law as a form of social control, from the viewpoint of Parsons’s evolving systems theory.
Parsons, Talcott. 1968. Law and sociology: A promising courtship? In The path of the law from 1967: Proceedings and papers at the Harvard Law School Convocation held on the 150th anniversary of its founding. Edited by A. E. Sutherland, 47–54. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
A discussion of the mutual value of law and sociology, written while Parsons was team-teaching a law and sociology seminar with legal scholar Lon Fuller.
Parsons, Talcott. 1978. Law as an intellectual stepchild. In Social system and legal process. Edited by H. M. Johnson, 11–58. Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series 47. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Parsons’s most systematic theoretical formulation of the role of law in society, this paper was to be elaborated into a book-length study of law.
Rocher, Guy. 1989. Le droit et la sociologie du droit chez Talcott Parsons. Sociologie et Sociétés 21.1: 143–163.
A useful overview of the place of law in Parsons’s thinking, written by a former student of Parsons and leading scholar in the sociology of law.
Donald Black and Pure Sociology
Very few scholars in the modern sociology of law have managed to gain an influence as great as Donald Black’s. Because of the clarity with which he formulated a general sociological theory of law, his work has attracted great attention from friends and foes alike. There is arguably no other theoretical framework in the modern sociology of law that is as systematic and ambitious as Black’s paradigm of pure sociology and its accompanying theory of social geometry. Black 1972 is the earliest statement of a pure sociology of law, on which Black 1976 provides an elaboration. Black 1989 and Black 1998 elaborate on the model. Greenberg 1983 offers a theoretical critique, while Hembroff 1987 provides an empirical test.
Black, Donald J. 1972. The boundaries of legal sociology. Yale Law Journal 81.6: 1086–1100.
Among the most influential and controversial modern statements to develop a scientific theory of law as a sociological subject matter.
Black, Donald J. 1976. The behavior of law. New York: Academic Press.
This concise work presents one of the most ambitious projects in the modern sociology of law. A highly influential theoretical formulation to study and explain law and related phenomena in society.
Black, Donald J. 1989. Sociological justice. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
An application of Black’s sociology of law to practical questions in legal policy.
Black, Donald J. 1998. The social structure of right and wrong. Rev. ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
This collection provides a broadening of Black’s approach beyond the contours of law to other areas of conflict resolution.
Greenberg, David F. 1983. Donald Black’s sociology of law: A critique. Law and Society Review 17.2: 337–368.
A negative critique of Black’s approach, indicative of the influence of Black’s work even among scholars who do not share his ideas.
Hembroff, Larry A. 1987. The seriousness of acts and social contexts: A test of Black’s theory of the behavior of law. American Journal of Sociology 93.2: 322–347.
Among the many empirical studies that rely on Black’s work, this paper indicates the value of testability in developing theories in the sociology of law.
Modern sociology of law exhibits many of the same characteristics of theoretical pluralism as do other specialty areas in the sociology of law. The variety of perspectives in the sociological study of law demonstrates the maturity of the sociology of law as a field in the discipline of sociology at large. Especially noteworthy are the influences of contemporary thinkers in social theory whose works have been applied in the sociology of law. Luhmann 2014 and Luhmann 2004 are the English-language editions of Germany’s leading sociologist of law. Nobles and Schiff 2013 offers an application of Luhmann’s central ideas. A contrasting theoretical perspective is offered by Habermas 1996. Foucault 1977 is highly influential, especially for the study of punishment and social control. Bourdieu 1987 has more recently gained a following among sociologists of law.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. The force of the law: Toward a sociology of the juridical field. Hastings Law Journal 38.5: 805–853.
This paper by the famous French sociologist has been very influential, especially in empirical research, even though it is his only explicit formulation of a sociology of law. Translated by Richard Terdiman.
Dezalay, Yves, and Mikael Rask Madsen. 2012. The force of law and lawyers: Pierre Bourdieu and the reflexive sociology of law. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8:433–452.
A thorough analysis of Bourdieu’s sole article on law in the context of his approach of reflexive sociology.
Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon.
Arguably among the most influential studies in modern sociology of law, this work by the French philosopher has gained wide attention among sociologists of law, especially those interested in social control and punishment. Originally published in 1975.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1996. Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Translated by William Rehg. Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
A dense and authoritative formulation of the place of law in society from the theoretical framework of discourse theory. Originally published in 1996.
Luhmann, Niklas. 2004. Law as a social system. Translated by Klaus A. Ziegert. Oxford Socio-Legal Studies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
Luhmann’s theory of law elaborated from the viewpoint of systems theory toward the formulation of his autopoietic perspective. Originally published in 1993.
Luhmann, Niklas. 2014. A sociological theory of law. 2d ed. Translated by Elizabeth King and Martin Albrow. Oxford: Routledge.
English translation of the first book-length study by one of Germany’s most important thinkers in the modern sociology of law. An ambitious study that is also highly complex and has yet to receive its due attention beyond Germany. Originally published in German in 1972.
Nobles, Richard, and David Schiff. 2013. Observing law through systems theory. Oxford: Hart.
This book is an application of Luhmann’s sociological approach to the study of law to a variety of legal issues, such as legal argumentation, globalization, and human rights.
Central Themes of Research
The modern sociology of law involves empirical research on a large number of issues related to law. The very development of the sociology of law into an institutionalized specialty field implies that any overview of these research efforts will be highly selective. The following overview focuses on sociological work with respect to the relation between law and institutions; the centrality of the legal profession; and the law, punishment, and social control.
Law and Institutions
It is among the single most typical characteristics of the sociology of law, regardless of the specific theoretical approaches that are used, to focus attention on the role of law in relation to other social institutions. The theoretical positioning of law in society leads to a wide variety of empirical efforts that involve law as it relates to politics, economy, and culture. On law and organizations, the work of Selznick 1969 is foundational. Further applications and discussions of this perspective are offered by Edelman and Suchman 1997, Edelman and Stryker 2005, and Krygier 2012. In matters of culture and gender, Fletcher 2002 provides a theoretical overview, while Hull 2006 offers an empirical study. Broadening the focus on inequalities, Seron and Munger 1996 offers overviews, while Skrentny 1996 provides an empirical study. Ewick and Silbey 1998 analyzes related conditions of legal consciousness.
Edelman, Lauren B., and Robin Stryker. 2005. A sociological approach to law and the economy. In The handbook of economic sociology. Edited by N. Smelser and R. Swedberg, 527–551. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
An overview and discussion of theoretical and empirical work on the relationship between law and economy, with special attention to the behavior of organizations.
Edelman, Lauren B., and Mark C. Suchman. 1997. The legal environments of organizations. Annual Review of Sociology 23:479–515.
Overview of sociology of law research in the tradition of institutionalism, an influential sociological perspective involved with the study of organizations.
Ewick, Patricia, and Susan S. Silbey. 1998. The common place of law: Stories from everyday life. Language and Legal Discourse. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
A groundbreaking empirical study of everyday perceptions of law on the basis of a narrative analysis. Important for the study of legal consciousness as a topic in the sociology of law.
Fletcher, Ruth. 2002. Feminist legal theory. In An introduction to law and social theory. Edited by Ruth Banakar and Max
Travers, 135–154. Portland, OR: Hart.
An exposition of the contributions of feminist perspectives to the sociology of law and the broader field of sociolegal studies.
Gray, Garry C., and Susan S. Silbey. 2014. Governing inside the organization: Interpreting regulation and compliance. American Journal of Sociology 120:96–145.
This study seeks to show the variation that exists in legal compliance across and within organizations as related to positions, autonomy, and expertise within every organization.
Hull, Kathleen E. 2006. Same-sex marriage: The cultural politics of love and law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
A penetrating empirical analysis of the regulation of same-sex marriage in the United States.
Krygier, Martin. 2012. Philip Selznick: Ideals in the world. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.
This overview and discussion of the ideas of Philip Selznick, the father of the highly influential institutionalist perspective, situates Selznick’s ideas on law usefully in connection with his work on organizations.
Richman, Kimberly D. 2015. License to wed: What legal marriage means to same-sex couples. New York: New York Univ. Press.
This book offers an examination of the meanings marriage has for same-sex couples in California and Massachusetts, arguing for the relevance of the legality of same-sex marriage.
Selznick, Philip, with Philippe Nonet and Howard M. Vollmer. 1969. Law, society, and industrial justice. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
A highly influential study of the relationship between law and economy in modern society, with special emphasis on the behavior of organizations.
Seron, Carroll, and Frank Munger. 1996. Law and inequality: Race, gender . . . and, of course, class. Annual Review of Sociology 22:187–212.
A discussion of empirical research in the sociology of law and in law-and-society scholarship that is centrally concerned with inequality.
Skrentny, John D. 1996. The ironies of affirmative action: Politics, culture, and justice in America. Morality and Society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
An insightful analysis of affirmative action policies conducted from a sociological perspective that focuses on the intersections of law, politics, and culture.
The Legal Profession
There is no topic studied as much in the field of law-and-society studies and in sociology of law as the legal profession. While in sociolegal studies this focus betrays the tendency of law to incorporate all legal expertise, including the study of its own professionals, in sociology this concern has been articulated in relation to broader sociological questions on the role of the professions in modern society. Carlin 1962 and Heinz and Laumann 1982 are among the most influential empirical studies on the legal profession. Hagan and Kay 1995 as well as Dixon and Seron 1995 offer recent empirical analyses in relation to gender. Dezalay and Garth 1996 discuss the internationalization of lawyers and their activities.
Carlin, Jerome E. 1962. Lawyers on their own: The solo practitioner in an urban setting. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.
One of the most influential and groundbreaking classic sociological studies on the legal profession, which influenced nearly all following empirical studies.
Dezalay, Yves, and Bryant G. Garth. 1996. Dealing in virtue: International commercial arbitration and the construction of a transnational legal order. Language and Legal Discourse. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
A major study of the transformation of the legal profession in the context of globalization, especially in the field of arbitration.
Dixon, Jo, and Carroll Seron. 1995. Stratification in the legal profession: Sex, sector and salary. Law and Society Review 29.3: 381–412.
A classic study on pay differentials among male and female lawyers, suggesting influences from gender as well as market conditions.
Hagan, John, and Fiona M. Kay. 1995. Gender in practice: A study of lawyers’ lives. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
An empirical analysis of the legal profession in Canada that focuses particularly on female lawyers, thus highlighting the importance of gender in the legal profession.
Heinz, John P., and Edward O. Laumann. 1982. Chicago lawyers: The social structure of the bar. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Possibly the most influential study of the legal profession in modern sociology, this work brings out the hierarchy and status differentials that exist in the legal profession.
Marshall, Anna-Maria, and Daniel Crocker Hale. 2014. Cause lawyering. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 10:301–320.
Examines the social and political contexts of cause lawyering and the relations between lawyers and their clients.
Punishment and Social Control
Because of the recent institutionalization and rising popularity of criminology and criminal justice, much work on punishment and social control has been taken out of sociology proper. Nonetheless, there also exists a research tradition in the sociology of law that focuses on important questions concerning the enforcement of law. Ross 1926 is the earliest systematic work on the sociology of social control, while Cohen 1985 is an influential modern treatise. Garland 1985 and Manza and Uggen 2006 represent two influential contemporary
empirical studies. Garland 2002 is a highly discussed recent work on the increasing punitiveness of modern Western societies. Garland 2010 offers a novel perspective of the death penalty in the United States.
Cohen, Stanley. 1985. Visions of social control: Crime, punishment, and classification. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
A novel and influential perspective on the study of social control and its relevance for questions concerning deviance, crime, and law.
Garland, David. 1985. Punishment and welfare: A history of penal strategies. Brookfield, VT: Gower.
A groundbreaking historical study of the evolving role of punishment in modern society.
Garland, David. 2002. The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
A theoretically sophisticated analysis of the contemporary state of incarceration in Western society, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, with special emphasis on cultural conditions of an increasingly punitive nature.
Garland, David. 2010. Peculiar institution: America’s death penalty in an age of abolition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
In this important study, the central concern is with the reasons why the death penalty persists in the United States when this form of punishment has generally disappeared across the nations of the world.
Manza, Jeff, and Christopher Uggen. 2006. Locked out: Felon disenfranchisement and American democracy. Studies in Crime and Public Policy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
A sophisticated empirical analysis of the conditions and impact of disenfranchisement laws for convicts in the context of American culture and politics.
Ross, Edward A. 1926. Social control: A survey of the foundations of order. Citizen’s Library of Economics, Politics, and Sociology. New York: Macmillan.
A classical study on the theoretical and social significance of social control institutions and mechanisms. Originally published in 1901.
Sutton, John R. 2013. The transformation of prison regimes in late capitalist societies. American Journal of Sociology 119:715–746.
Focused on the globalization of punishment, this study shows that incarceration rates increased mainly among countries with unregulated labor markets, decentralized polities, and weak labor unions, but that important institutional differences also continue to exist.