sociology of law
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sociology of lawthe sociological study of the social context, development and operation of law: the system of rules and sanctions, the specialist institutions and specialist personnel, and the several types of law (e.g. constitutional, civil, criminal) which constitute the legal system in complex societies.
In the development of this area of study the works of DURKHEIM and WEBER have been important as in other areas of sociology, but the development of the sociology of law is complicated by academic approaches overlapping with sociology, notably JURISPRUDENCE and, later, the development of sociolegal studies. The latter now exists as a strand of social science thinking and research (including psychology and economic analysis as well as inputs from sociology) and stands in critical relation with traditional orthodoxies in legal theory. CRIMINOLOGY and the wider study of DEVIANCE are further related areas of specialist study.
In the sociology of law and in sociolegal studies, utilitarian, individualistic and positivist views have been challenged by an interest in exploring the complexities of morality and mechanisms of social control. From Durkheim came the emphasis on the formal expression of what is pre-eminently social, viz, morality. This was explored in his discussion of the shift from MECHANICAL to ORGANIC SOLIDARITY, which included the distinction between ‘repressive’ and ‘restitutive’ law. From Weber's work has come an emphasis on the role of the development of rational and calculable law – legal rationalism – as a precondition for modern political developments and for capitalism. MARX's work, although less concerned with the detailed study of legal forms, has also influenced the study of law in a number of ways, ranging from studies of the role of class interests in the content of law, to debates about the overall form of’bourgeois’ legality – an interest inspired by the rediscovery of the work of Evgeny Pashukanis (1891-1937).
As well as such general theoretical bases, lower level empirical studies of the operation of legal institutions have been increasingly important, especially studies of the working of the CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, including the operation of courts, police, etc., and PENOLOGY. See also NATURAL RIGHTS AND NATURAL LAW, COMMON LAW, ROMAN LAW.