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Introduction to Socio-legal Studies




Admissions requirements



This course provides an introduction to the field of socio-legal studies. Unlike traditional or ‘black letter’ lawyers, who mostly examine the law from a normative perspective, socio-legal scholars are 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, socio-legal scholars adopt a more interdisciplinary perspective to analyzing the law. This course will examine key themes, insights and methods from the field, drawing on different countries 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?

  • What is social production and what is the social working of law?

  • 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?

  • 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


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

  • identify and distinguish between different actors relevant to access to justice;

  • explain law’s different functions in connection with different visions of society;

  • analyze and critically examine the various ways in which law can bring about social change or in which social processes lead to legal change;

  • comprehend the concepts of legal pluralism and legal consciousness, and explain how these relate to the above themes.

  • Summarize readings in terms of arguments made, contribution to the literature, and methods used (case selection, data collection, and data analysis);

  • Discuss and apply the relevant law to wider societal issues;

  • Analyse diverging legal conceptualisations based on different socio-cultural contexts;

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


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

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


  • In-class presentation: 15%

  • Participation: 15%

  • Essay (3000 words): 30%

  • Written examination: 40%

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

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


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Amy Strecker