Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Law and Society
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 3 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Exam  Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or other materials into the examination.  100%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Exam  Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or other materials into the examination.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. understand the purpose and significance of critical and social theories relating to the origins, contingency, impact and authority of law
2. understand the roots and development of critical and social theories about law
3. identify key questions about the contextual nature, significance and effect of law, or specific laws, and select appropriate theoretical bases for examining them
4. undertake interdisciplinary analysis of legal issues with an appropriate awareness of the purposes and limits of such a methodological approach

Brief description

Law is a social phenomenon, one which connects a variety of social groups; those who make the law, those who apply it, those who obey it, those who do not. The principal aim of this course is to provide students with a deeper understanding of the nature of law as a variable and contingent product of different human societies. The course will provide students with the means of questioning the origins and essence of law as a social phenomenon, through an introduction to the anthropological and sociological study of laws in societies around the world, together with the means of questioning and studying law from the perspective of concepts of culture, gender and politics.
This course will concern itself with the theoretical analysis of the law in its social setting. It will promote investigation into social and critical theories which reveal a broad-ranging variety of perceptions of law and its social contingency. It will attempt to understand how the range of critical perspectives can be understood in developing theories of the law, and in promoting a better understanding of what law is, and what law can accomplish. Its object will be to promote a better understanding of law as part of social theory.
Unlike the legal theory course, which deals principally with the analysis of `law? as a concept and its relationship to other concepts (good, justice etc), this course will consider the standing of law and the way in which law is understood beyond the confines of the law and the legal system. This course is therefore designed to encourage students to think critically about law in general, and about specific laws in particular, with regard to the social context in which law is created and operates.


It is hoped that course members will come away with an enhanced understanding of the importance of considerations of social context and historical contingency in their appreciation of the value of law, and also of its role in social life. Our attempt to promote such understanding through disciplined and analytically precise discussion is also an attempt to promote intellectual rigour and to generate inter-disciplinary interest. Thus there is also involved a broadly-based preparation for further study within the larger field of the social sciences.


Whilst the precise course content may vary in response to staff interests and contemporary legal developments, it is envisaged that it will consider the following issues:
1. Anthropological perspectives on law
What purposes can be served by observing law in practice in particular societies (historical and contemporary)? How does an understanding of culture change our understanding of what law is?
2. Sociological and psychological perspectives on law
What does it mean to adopt a sociological perspective on law? What psychological factors are involved in obedience to and understanding of legal principles? This section of the course will look in particular at the work of the so-called Scandinavian Realists.
3. Law and morality
Should the law impose a sense of morality on people? Can it avoid doing that? Whose morals? What are morals anyway?
4. Western law/ Eastern law
In a time when concepts of the `West? and the `East? are generally associated with conflict or the expansion of markets, what is the fundamental nature of these two traditions with regard to law? How different are they? To what extent is such a distinction important? What have they learned from, and what can they contribute to, each other?
5. Law and gender
What is gender? How are ways of understanding masculinity, femininity, society and culture interrelated? What effect does this have on the law ? and what effect does the law have on gender?
6. Law and politics
To what extent are law and politics interconnected, with regard to specific laws, law as a product of specific societies, and decision-making in relation to law in practice and law in the classroom? Can law and legal education ever be politically neutral?
7. Law and language, text and authority
Why is law special compared to other forms of language and text? Why is the law `the law?? If law is a product of human society, what does it have in common, if anything, with other such products, including stories, fiction and poetry? Can reading about human experience across a range of texts (legal, non-legal) tell us anything more useful than if we kept such texts separate?


This module is at CQFW Level 6