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Introduction to Socio-legal Studies


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



This course provides an introduction to the field of socio-legal studies. Unlike traditional readings of the law which mostly examines the law from a normative perspective, the socio-legal approach is concerned with what the law actually does in reality (often referred to as ‘law in action’) and how it relates to society and social change. To this end, the socio-legal approach adopts a more interdisciplinary perspective (sociology, anthropology, criminology etc.) to analyzing the law. This course will examine key themes and insights from the field, drawing on different cultures and contexts.

Questions addressed include:

  • What functions does law have in society? Does law represent society’s consensus, is it helpful to advance the interests of the poor or does it rather serve the interests of the rich and powerful?

  • How is the law socially constructed and how it creates social realities?

  • How do law and social change relate to each other – can law be used to bring about social change or vice versa?

  • Why do people obey the law?

  • What is legal pluralism? How, when and why it can be applied?

Through these and other questions this course explores the ways in which law and society mutually affect and shape each other, and the roles that social context, structure and power play in this regard.

Course Objectives


  • Understand important concepts, themes and theories within the field of socio-legal studies;

  • Identify and explain law’s relationship with different visions of society and how legal processes do or do not lead to social change;

  • Understand, articulate, and analyze concepts of legal compliance, access to justice, legal pluralism and legal consciousness;


  • Summarize readings in terms of arguments and methodology;

  • Apply legal concepts to particular social examples and issues;

  • Analyze how legal concepts are based on different socio-cultural contexts;

  • Develop and present sophisticated and coherent arguments both orally and in writing;


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course uses a variety of teaching methods, including (interactive) lecturing, group presentations, in class discussion and debate, and PowerPoint.

Assessment Method

  • Reading question: 15%

  • Participation: 15 %

  • Presentation: 25% total

    • 19% of your grade is based on your group presentation
    • 6% is based on your role as a discussant for another group presentation.
  • Final essay: 45%

Reading list

The required and recommended reading will be listed in the course syllabus and will be made available on Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Meriem Rebbani,
Judith van Uden,