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Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies




Admission Requirements



This course provides an introduction into the field of socio-legal studies, in which legal issues and phenomena are approached from a multi- or interdisciplinary perspective. Important insights and findings from the field will be examined, as well as the methodologies employed to bring these about. The focus of this field is that of “law in action”.

Key (predominantly legal sociological) readings on “law in action” in different countries and settings will be examined. Questions that will be addressed include:

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

  • How does (new) law come about?;

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

  • Why do people obey the law?

  • How, when and why is law (not) invoked to resolve disputes?

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

  • to acquire knowledge of important concepts, themes and theories within the field of socio-legal studies.

  • to gain an understanding of law’s different functions in connection with different visions of society.

  • to gain an understanding of various ways in which law can bring about social change and ways in which legal change is brought about.

  • to gain an understanding of contexts and factors that shape the ways in which legal rules are used, invoked and followed.

Mode of Instruction

The course uses a variety of teaching methods, including (interactive) lecturing, student presentations, web postings, class discussion and debate. Teaching materials include readings as well as video and film clips.


Assessment: In-class participation (including presentations and debates)
Learning aim: Developing verbal presentation and argumentation skills
Percentage: 15% (participation) 25% (2 presentations)
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Final essay (2000 words)
Learning aim: Understanding of and engaging with course content
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 7, subject to be determined week 5

Assessment: Final written examination
Learning aim: Understanding of course content
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 8



Contact Information

Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction: perspectives, concepts, questions and methods.
Week 2: Law’s functions
Week 3: Law and social change, social change and legal development
Week 4: Implementation of laws and (un)intended consequences
Week 5: Dispute resolution: social contexts, attitudes and forums
Week 6: Access to justice
Week 7: Law and power

Preparation for first session

Students are expected to have prepared the readings and questions announced on Blackboard for the first class.