Sociology of Law (21711). 3 units. What does it mean to study law from a sociological perspective and what is gained by doing so? This course is addressed to those broad questions. The first part of the class will start with a theoretical overview of seminal texts in the field, including Marx, Weber and Durkheim. It will also introduce various methodological approaches to the contemporary sociology of law, with a focus on qualitative methods.
The second part of the class will focus on a particular slice of sociology of law, namely the study of legal organizations or bureaucracies. Bureaucracy is a form of social organization fundamental to modern society. Law on the books comes to be law in action largely through legal bureaucracies, weather it is through courts, administrative agencies, welfare offices or the compliance department of a private firm. In addition to exploring seminal texts on the concept of bureaucracy and organizations, this course will ask the following questions: Why is it important to study the organizational structure in which legal rules are interpreted and applied? How do formal qualities of legal bureaucracies—that is, the way in which the site organizes the work of presenting and adjudicating legal rights or claims—shape the precise way people experience certain legal regimes?
Instead of focusing on one specific site or subject matter, this class will investigate a set of conceptual and theoretical tools that can be used to study various legal sites. The readings may cover the following specific legal bureaucracies: criminal courts, police organizations, sexual harassment and anti-discrimination compliance offices of private firms, welfare offices, administrative agencies, and law school admissions offices. Together we will explore how the sociology of law, bureaucracy and organizations can be used to ask penetrating questions about how legal rules come to have the specific pattern of use (or nonuse), enforcement (or nonenforcement), costs and benefits for the people and activities which they address.
Students will be expected to write frequent reaction papers to the readings and submit a final paper based on a short research inquiry into a specific legal organization of their choice. Paper required. Enrollment limited to fifteen. I. Kohler-Hausmann.
Note: Interested students should plan to attend on the first day.