The study of social life, changes and causes – sociology looks at human behavior and interaction. Law and sociology are closely related since law governs human society and sociology accesses our reaction to such governance. Sociology allows the law to understand human patterns and legislate accordingly. From family to crime, and gender to social class, sociology complements law. The intersection of law and sociology is aptly described in the Encyclopedia of Law and Society as a systematic and empirical study of law, viewed as a set of social practices and experiences. As such, it treats law, justice, and its institutions as those that intervene between the economical and political interests and the cultural and normative order of humanity, thereby placing law as an institution that constitutes itself as a source of consensus, coercion and social control.
Law has been a significant focus for studies by a few of the greatest sociological theorists such as Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. Weber studied law as a major mechanism of rationalization of the modern social world while Durkheim perceived law and morality as inseparable foundations of social solidarity in modern as well as pre-modern worlds. Both used law as a node of enquiry to understand and explore basic issues about the nature of modern society and social relationships.
To get started on the subject, it is essential to know how to approach it. Here is the link to a research guide for law and sociology:
- Dr. Robert V. Labaree, Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper, published by the University of Southern California.
For readers who are just getting started:
- John Sutton, Law/Society: Origins, Interactions, and Change (2000), chapters 2-4.
- Robin Stryker, 21st Century Sociology: A Reference Handbook (2006), chapter 34.
- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975)
- Pierre Bourdieu, The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field (1987), pp. 814-43.
- Tom Tyler, Why People Obey the Law, Yale University Press (1990), pp. 474-485.
- Alan Hyde, The Concept of Legitimation in the Sociology of Law (2008), pp. 379-426.
For readers with basic understanding:
- R. Banakar, Merging Law and Sociology: Beyond the Dichotomies of Socio-Legal Research (2003)
- Philip Selznick, Sociology and Natural Law, Natural Law Forum, 6, (1961) , pp. 84-108.
- David Nelken, Beyond Law in Context: Developing a Sociological Understanding of Law (2009)
- Donald J Black, The Boundaries of Legal Sociology, (1972), pp. 1086-1101.
- James T Richardson, The Sociology of Religious Freedom: A Structural and Socio-Legal Analysis, pp. 271–94.
- Frontiers of Socio-Legal Studies, a University of Oxford blog that engages in new debates at the forefront of Socio-Legal Studies and provides a space for discussion.
- Law, Politics and Sociology Blog, A University of Sussex blog that frequently publishes on a range of interdisciplinary issues.
- Everyday Sociology, an informative site that avoids complex jargon and provides entertaining commentary from sociologists primarily from the West.
- Talking about Methods: an insightful podcast series by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in Oxford where scholars discuss various research methods that inform their socio-legal work.
- Anurag Minus Verma Podcast: conversations about the “important and non-important” things of our time.
Note from the Editors:
Dear reader, as you may have observed – the literature predominantly is produced in the context of the global north, hence there is a dearth of articles or books examining the relationship between sociology and the law in the global south (including India).
We sincerely hope that as a reader, you may take up the initiative to write on such topics in the context of the global south (and hopefully publish with us!). In that spirit, we wish happy reading!
Also, if you feel we missed out on any literature/resource or have a recommendation that we can add to this section, please do let us know. Even if you do not have any recommendations, any feedback is much appreciated. Thank you!