Interplay of intellects : Social science and Law

The applicability of law and its formulation in itself is founded within the human society.Therefore, the existence and working of a human society, and the creation and sustenance of a legal regime are interlinked intimately. 

The nature of law, by and large, is to maintain social order. Thus, by nature, law is regulatory in a prohibitive sense, as well as in a positive sense. In regulating a society, lawmakers have to take into account several dynamics, values and beliefs of the society on which such regulations are made. To apply law to a society and to deliver justice in accordance with such laws, the composition of the society- demography, popular beliefs, attitudes towards certain values and norms are essentials to be kept in mind for such law to yield results.

In fact, in order to understand the interdisciplinary interaction which law has with other social sciences, it is necessary to understand that law in itself is essentially a social science.

The fact that law is a social science and phenomenon has been argued widely by American legal theorists and sociological jurists, and it has come to be accepted across research, almost universally. The first question which arises in dealing with this is, whether a law is a science in the first place. To understand this, we first need to get into the definition of science, and interestingly, no concrete definition exists of what science is. However, it is broadly agreed that science is a body of knowledge founded on facts. Essentially, science is something that works with facts, involves some sort of quantification and research, and can be empirically tested. If we now take a look at law, we might argue that law, while being
formulated, works with ‘facts’ of the society on which it is to be applied, and in the course of justice delivery, it works with the facts of law and facts of the case at hand. Executing a law, or formulating a law involves working with social facts– that is, the behavior and outlook of people in society. Further, research on the effectiveness of a law often involves working with numbers- quantifying the number of violations, number of cases, etc.- or a qualitative analysis of the effects of the law on society. For example, the quantification of the number of human rights violations, or the qualitative analysis of the position of women in law. This shows us that law is subject to empirical as well as doctrinal research, Thus, since law fulfills the above-cited characteristics of science, we may conclude law is a science. 

The object of law as a science, however, is not to deal with natural phenomena like other ‘traditional’ or physical sciences. Law deals with society and its people. It deals with the interaction of individuals in a society within the social structure. Thus, the object of law as a science sets it apart from the natural sources, and categorizes it within the social sciences.
Law, as a social science, bears a lot in common with respect to the ambit of applicability, with other social sciences. As it is, social science is a close-knit umbrella of disciplines with overlapping boundaries, and law is no exception. This overlap of subject matters makes law and other social sciences intertwined.
Law works intimately with the disciplines of Political Science, Sociology and Economics in formulating its own course.


A relationship of proximity between law and political science has been witnessed in the forms and content of discourse in both the disciplines. If we talk about the broad matter of study of political science- politics- and its interaction with law, we will observe a clear nexus between the two.

Law and politics are essentially related in three aspects- a set goal, a means to achieve, or an obstacle in doing so. Politics defines certain values or certain forms of institutions as its goal. In this context, interest groups base their study of law to figure out which law could be a means of attaining such goals, or which law could stand as an obstacle. Thus, the wielding of
political power within the arena of politics is largely based on, and influenced by law. Political science, as its subject matter, studies such wielding of power in politics. Thus, public law within the study of political sciences, constantly changes 2 – which shows an interaction between law and political science.

A major convergence, and a resulting interaction, between the two disciplines occurs in the question of State- and its study. State as an institution, is essential for the sustenance of order within society- it is the primary authority and institution within a society. The function of legislation and implementation of law is primarily of the state, and such legislation and
methods of implementation also shapes the character of a state. The character and nature of a state, in turn, influences the kinds of legal regime it implements. Thus, the single biggest influence on law is that of a state, which in turn derives its powers from the law in place. 

Political science, on the other hand, studies a state– its nature and characteristics– based on how it wields its power bestowed by law, the kinds of law it makes and how it implements the same. Thus, state is a common aspect on which both law and political science theorize upon.

Constitutional law and its study is another field where the two disciplines regularly interact. A Constitution is generally defined as the supreme law of the land on which it is in place. Political Science is concerned with the study of Constitutions and its features such as liberalism, democracy, etc. Since law as a discipline has both domestic and international paradigms to it, it is not possible to frame a unique Constitution- all constitutions have some convergence and influences, drawn from other Constitutions. This is facilitated by the study of Constitutions- in studying features such as liberal democracy, fundamental rights,
federalism and unitary structure and other features, political science helps in analyzing the
features of different constitutions, which could be used in the process of drafting laws (for example, Indian constitution draws several of its features from other constitutions). Thus, law
obtains the knowledge and analysis of different forms and structures of Constitution from
political science.
Therefore, the interactions between law and political science, and points of convergence in the study of both the disciplines are unambiguously apparent. They heavily rely on each other in theorizing and empirically testing such theories.


Though the study of law depends on the Sate, it is not confined to the State only- it goes further and beyond. This is primarily because of the objective of the state in framing laws- to maintain social order, as Aristotle said. Thus, the creation and implementation of law is closely knitted with the society and its people- after all, it is the people who shall be subjected to such regulations. Thus, the study of law entails a study of the society, and the effect of laws, or the lack of it, on a certain society. To study the same, law works closely with the ‘science of society’, that is, sociology. Law being a social institution, works with social change.

To formulate laws for a particular society, it is imperative that the formulating authority understands the dynamics of a society. To understand such dynamics, law has to seek answers to the problems of which values are cherished by the society, which processes are vital for the sustenance of society and must be protected through social control in the form of law, etc. It also needs to answer why laws came into being in the first place- and the continuity of which aspects of the society was aimed for. It heavily relies on the studies of value and culture by sociologists- the concept of sacred and profane  promulgated by Emile Durkheim, for example, helps law understand which kinds of law confirms to the practices of a society, and thereby legislate accordingly to avoid hostile reception. For example, a law   banning deity worship in a society which believes in the same would be met with hostility; sociology, studying social facts and social dynamics, tells law of the sacred and profane within a society, thereby helping in understanding a society before framing laws for the same.

Even after the formulation of law, it is the part of its implementation which makes a law take shape within society. Sociology empirically studies the change in social patterns- how much did the social pattern change and what has its effect been on the members of a society. Often, the members are unable to adapt to the new patterns of regulation, which causes a degradation of social bond and solidarity- this is pointed out by the sociological concept of cultural shock. The ineffectiveness of the Dowry Prohibition Act in India due to social
constraints, for example, was pointed out by researchers.

Therefore, law in maintaining order in society and understanding its successes and failures in its function, banks on sociological data. Sociology too is influenced by emerging legal trends in its research- a law may cause changes in social processes and values, thereby causing a different sociological perspective to emerge. Society, as we can see, by and large is shaped by regular interactions between sociology and law.


Modern understanding of market, finance and state has increased an interplay of economic and legal principles in the market. State intervenes into the market through laws. On the other hand, law relies on economics as well in understanding the financial capacities and abilities of the demography, which essentially guides decisions of lawmaking, especially those concerned with revenue, taxation and other price regulating mechanisms- for example, the 103 rd Constitutional Amendment Act providing for reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections. Economics is concerned with the utilization and distribution of resources and its study, whereas such resources falling in a territory are held under the command of the sovereign State, which essentially formulates laws.

In the initial years, intervention of law in the market was considered a bad influence and was discouraged- state was to maintain strict separation from the market and the market was to be allowed to regulate itself. This policy of laissez faire market, however, declined with the advent of welfarist perspective in law and other social sciences, which believed the work of the state is to essentially improve the living standards of the people. It was noted that the market is often unfair and development must be inclusive, without leaving out the economically marginalized. Therefore, State studies the economic situation of the demography and intervenes into the market through laws, in order to redistribute resources and such redistribution indeed, is essential for poverty elimination. For example, land reforms and rights.

Moreover, intervention through law is also done to make sure competition between rivals is fair. The Competition Law in India, for instance, promotes fair competition– provisions in the act prohibit anti-competitive practices, while ensuring freedom of trade and interest of consumers.In order to bolster the economy, it is essential to bolster legal protection of the
firms and their trading and other essential rights such as intellectual property, protection from insider trading, etc. In order to put such protections in place, economics and law works hand to hand.

Thus, economics and law are interrelated in several aspects and work together within a market.


Therefore, it is clearly observable that law as a social science itself, interacts, borrows from, and contributes to the shaping of discourses for itself and other social sciences. It would be wrong to consider law, or any other social science, to be an isolated discipline- they are, by nature, intertwined and interactive. 

Srinwanti Mitra
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2nd year, St. Xavier's University, Kolkata

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