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Lawmaking, Society and Politics


Admission requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the master's programme Law and Society: Governance & Global Development.


This course examines the process of policy and lawmaking, by critically looking into and questioning the underlying rationales and decisions that are being made to use law as the instrument of choice to respond to problems in society. In so doing, this course will predominantly focus on laws and policies that are drafted in response to what nowadays is considered to be (urgent) social challenges and threats, which includes international and home-grown terrorism as well as migration related issues in relation to the fight against organised crime.

By focusing on this ‘extreme’ cases legislations (fight against terrorism/organised crime), the course examines how successful law and policy can be in performing several major functions: allocating authority, defining relationships, resolving conflict, adapting to social change, and fostering social solidarity. By first unpacking the complex concept of the rule of law in relation to processes of policy and lawmaking, the course will assess the nature and limits of rules and regulations as well as consider alternative perspectives on social control and social change.

Lawmaking is frequently the result of grassroots/bottom-up processes, where social demands are articulated through collective action and then elevated to a higher political and administrative level. By contrast, lawmaking initiatives can also be the result of elite agendas that are played out far removed from the public view. Another important feature of lawmaking that students will learn about is how it involves social analysis or judgment of problems by those involved in the process, and how this is then translated into normative rules.

Additionally, part of the lawmaking process concerns an analysis of whether the new legal rules are in conformity with those already in place (including human rights). The course will pay attention to the ‘toolboxes’ of quality control instruments that have been developed across the globe to be used during lawmaking. A third theme is how ethnographies of lawmaking processes may be used to reveal the broader assumptions political and government elites have about the law and how it works in practice.

The course will adopt a mutlidisciplinary approach and combine both criminological and importantly socio-legal perspectives to address social and legal dilemma’s faced by political and legal institutions while governing the international threat of (transnational) terrorism and organised crime, guaranteeing safety and handling international and national crises on the one hand, and protecting the rule of law in a democratic yet complex society on the other hand.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
Upon completing this course, students are able to :

  • Explain and illustrate why law and policy should be seen as socially, culturally and politically constructed and how this affects those subjected to the law;

  • Can identify the different legal and non-legal factors and actors that influence the process of lawmaking and policymaking. In so doing they can critically reflect upon and explain why certain (f)actors will have a greater influence over others and, as a result of this, what this entails for the legitimacy, effects of laws and policies and the rule of law in general;

  • Can argue and illustrate why the context in which criminal justice policies and laws are being created is particularly complex and why this can be seen as problematic;

  • Are familiar with various criminological and socio-legal theoretical concepts and frameworks that can be used to (1) explain how and why in the context of criminal justice legislations and policies a shift towards prevention and precaution can be witnessed, (2) explain how legislation and can contribute to racial inequality and othering, (3) explain how and why certain formal laws and policies are unlikely to be effective when looking at the informal rules and perceptions that are dominant within the groups that are targeted by the formal laws and policies;

  • Are aware of, and can explain, the declining role of experts and expert knowledge in the process of lawmaking and policymaking;

  • Can reflect upon and argue why scholars should or should not play a more public role and what this in fact could entail;

  • Are able to give substance to this role by explaining criminal justice issues orally and in writing by using scientific findings and results combined with legal reasoning and argumentation.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


  • The course will consist of 6 two-hour offline lectures

  • The lectures will be given by Roxane de Massol de Rebetz, LL.M, MSc and Prof. dr. Mr. Maartje van der Woude

  • In preparation of the lectures, students will have read and prepared the reading materials which will be tested through several assignments that have to be handed in during, before or after class


  • This course comprises five mandatory two-hour (online or offline) seminars, in addition to the lectures mentioned above

  • The seminars will be given by Maryla Klajn, MSc.

  • In preparation of the seminars the students will have to make weekly (group) assignments that will be presented and/ or discussed during the online meetings

Other methods of instruction

  • Weekly online office chat hours during which the students can talk to the seminar lecturer about the assignments, the reading materials or any other issues regarding the course

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • You have to write one individual short assignment taking the form of an evidence-based blog)

  • You have to do one (group) presentation which can be linked to your individual assignment

  • You have to pass a written examination.

  • All weekly seminars must be attended in order to pass this course

Course grades are determined by a final portfolio that consists of:

  • 1 individual assignment (25% of the final grade)

  • 1 (group) presentation during the seminar (15%)

  • 1 final written open book examination (60% of the final grade)

  • All components (average of the individual (blog) assignment + presentation AND the written examination) should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully. If this is not the case, the lowest partial grade will be registered as final grade

  • There will be a retake for the written examination mentioned above. Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that this retake will be an oral examination. In that case, you will be notified of this in time

  • In case the average grade for the blog assignments is 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website

  • The partial exams that have been finished with a passing grade, will be valid up to and including the academic year following the year in which the grade has been achieved. To this there is one exception: when the learning objectives, content, design or examination of a course has been changed, the course coordinator can decide that the validity of the partial exam concerned has expired due to didactic reasons. This will be stated in the course description of the academic year in which the change(s) will be implemented

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations). Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course if they meet certain requirements. To retake a passed exam, students need to ask the Student Administration Office (OIC) for permission. For more information, go to 'course and exam enrollment' > 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website.

Reading list

A combination of international peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, the titles of which will be distributed in due time via Brightspace, students will have to look up the articles themselves.


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.


  • Coordinator: mw. R.M.F. de Massol de Rebetz

  • Work address: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society

  • Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 7260

  • Email:


  • Institute: Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law

  • Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute

  • Room number secretary: B1.14

  • Opening hours: Monday till Thursday and Friday morning

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7260

  • Email: