SOCY 540: Sociology of Law

A course taught by Dr. Mathieu Deflem at the University of South Carolina.


This online course (asynchronous) is designed for upper-level undergraduates who major or minor in sociology and is also open to graduate and law-school students. It reviews the most important developments, both theoretical and empirical, in the sociology of law. This is not a course in law, but in the sociology of law. The goal of the class is to understand some of the specific characteristics of the manner in which sociologists study law as well as to explain some of the patterns and dynamics of law in a variety of social settings.

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to know and understand the manner in which sociologists study law and empirically analyze relevant dynamics of law and law-related phenomena in a variety of social settings. Successive sections of this course will focus on: classical theoretical contributions to the sociology of law; selected chapters in modern sociology of law; and a useful selection of empirical themes of law and law-related processes and structures to which the sociological theories will be applied. These empirical topics include, but are not necessarily limited to: law and economy; law and politics; law and culture; social structure and law; legality and legitimacy; the legal profession; law and inequality; and globalization and law.

A prerequisite for this course is SOCY 393 Sociological Theory, or consent of the instructor.

Consult the academic calendar for important dates. Useful information is also provided by the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, such as its integrity policies (including the Honor Code and the Student Code of Conduct). Information is also available online about academic regulations and the Student Success Center.

Registered students can access all course materials on Blackboard.


Introduction: Sociology, Society, and Law

Part I. Theoretical Foundations of the Sociology of Law
1) Law and the Rise of the Social Sciences
2) Max Weber on the Rationalization of Law
3) Emile Durkheim on Law and Social Solidarity
Part II. Development and Variations of the Sociology of Law
4) The Theoretical Move Towards the Sociology of Law
5) From Sociological Jurisprudence to Sociology of Law
6) Sociology of Law and the Antinomies of Modern Thought
Part III. Sociological Dimensions of Law
7) Law and Economy: The Regulation of the Free Market
8) Law and Politics: The Role of Democratic Law
9) Law and Integration: The Legal Profession
10) Law and Culture: The Balance of Values Through Norms
Part IV. Special Problems of Law
11) Social Control: The Enforcement of Law
12) The Globalization of Law



Mathieu Deflem. 2008. Sociology of Law: Visions of a Scholarly Tradition. Cambridge University Press.


A list of academic articles is provided every semester via Blackboard. These articles present recent research examples in the sociology of law so that the course provides a contemporary perspective of various sociologically relevant dimensions of law in society. 
Registered students can access all course materials on Blackboard


    Graduate students have to complete all of the readings and assignments that are specified for undergraduates as well as several additional requirements. Supplementary required readings and further specifications of the assignments will be made available by the course instructor.

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