Module Identifier LA33710  
Module Title LAW AND CULTURE  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Mr Richard W Ireland  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Ms Melanie L Williams  
Course delivery Lecture   20 Hours  
  Seminars / Tutorials   4 Hours Seminar.  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam1.5 Hours  50%
Semester Assessment Essay: Assessed essay of 2000 words (required in week 9).  50%
Supplementary Assessment By combination of Examination and Coursework   
Professional Exemptions Not Required for Professional Purposes  

Learning outcomes

To achieve familiarity with the methods of comparative jurisprudence by directing attention towards alternative models of law which deliberately challenge the socio-economic, moral and political assumptions of established legal doctrine in modern industrialised societies and to establish the legitimacy of such challenges through demonstrating the absence of a logically-closed system of legal reasoning. Thus the course involves comparison of the methods and pre-theoretical assumptions of normative legal theory with those of empirical legal theory. Although the precise content of the module is subject to available expertise on the part of the various members of the teaching team for any particular year, the course will address such issues from a variety of perspectives.

At the end of the day, it is hoped that members of the course will acquire both knowledge and awareness of the context within which positive laws function (or fail to function), and that they would also acquire the capacity for critical thought and the ability to conduct precise analyses of the contextual considerations that impinge upon the nature and function of law in a clear and precise manner both orally and in writing.

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.

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. 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 with internal definitions of law (as perceived by lawyers), 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. The use of empirical evidence in the pursuit of 'law on the ground' will be considered, together with the role of ideology in determining what law is, and how it operates. The course will concern itself with the legal exercise of power, and the links which exist between the legal, political, moral, and other social systems. Although part of the course may be dedicated to the study of women in law, the course as a whole will seek to understand how any identifiable group of people might view the law, and might be affected by it. How their perspectives affect the definition of law (both internally - by lawyers - and externally - by others) will be considered critically in analysing law. In an analysis of law and literature the links between law and other cultural constructs are considered and the merits of the comparison critically assessed.

The course will also consider the effects that culture may have on legal regulation and legal understanding. It will be particularly interested to investigate what legal analysis and understanding in other, more remote societies, can teach us about general definitions of law, and of law's place in social theory.


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. Critical appreciation of language use and the role of rhetoric will be persued. The capacity for social critique achieved possesses broad implications for the self-development of the individual as a member of society. More tangible benefits exist were it to be borne in mind that techniques of social criticism and an enhanced awareness of social conditions are desirable in those who would work in professional areas which touch upon the public interest. The focus on such techniques thus achieves a critical social skill that is of broad social application. This is evidenced by the fact that the areas of concern within the present scheme of study have tended 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.


1. American and Scandinavian Realism

Is law more than the logical (pure) application of rules to facts?

2. Feminist Jurisprudence

Does law support a patriarchal social structure? If so, how ought law to be analysed, and how could change be promoted?

3. Postmodern Jurisprudence

Is there a place for "grand theory" in contemporary jurisprudence and social theory?

4. Law and Morality

Should the law impose a sense of morality on people? Can it avoid doing that?

5. Law and Anthropology

What purposes can be served by observing law in practice in particular societies (historical and contemporary). How does culture change our understanding of what law is?

6. Law & Literature

Can a reading of other forms of written form (re-)invigorate jurisprudential/doctrinal debate?

Reading Lists

Students will be further advised at the beginning of the course
** Recommended Text
Freeman Lloyd's Introduction to Jurisprudence (1994) 6th.
Douzinas and Warrington (with McVeigh) Postmodern Jurisprudence (1991)
Naffine Law and the Sexes (1990)
** Supplementary Text
Cotterrell The Politics of Jurisprudence (1989)
Harris Jurisprudence (1980)
Morrison Jurisprudence
Davies and Holdcroft Jurisprudence: Text and Commentary (1991)


This module is at CQFW Level 6