What Is Sociology of Law?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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Sociology of law is a subfield of sociology that seeks to examine the social practices and phenomena that surround and define how law is practiced in different societies. It is a highly interdisciplinary field, as it draws from law, sociology as a whole, psychology, criminology, economics, and a variety of other socially and legally important disciplines. Sociology of law is concerned with a variety of theoretical and practical concerns regarding the social phenomena surrounding legal theory and practice. Theoretically, the field seeks to classify the role of law in society, though it also addresses practical interests such as discrimination and bias.

The role of law in society is one of the broadest and most important concerns of sociology of law. It encompasses many different facets, including the actual role of the structure of the legal system and the societal effects of the existence of the legal system. The presence of certain laws are highly important in governing the behavior of a population. Sociologists studying sociology of law are interested in defining the elements of legal systems that give them such efficacy and in determining what societal roles various facets of a legal system serve. Sociologists may, for instance, be specifically concerned with which laws and legal systems are good for the people and which are oppressive.


Important legal and civil issues, such as discrimination and equality, are major concerns in the field of sociology. Gender and race issues in particular are highly important and controversial. Different groups have used a given legal system to attempt to gain greater rights and protection while the same legal system has, in many cases, proven to be subject to severe bias on the grounds of race or sex. This concern is highly practical, as discovering the origins of such ambivalence may provide the key to moving beyond it and providing greater legal fairness for all.

Sociology of law is often referred to as "legal sociology." As suggested by the two labels assigned to the field, there is some debate in the academic community regarding how, exactly, the field is to be classified. Some feel that it is, by necessity, purely part of sociology, as separation from the field of law ensures a greater degree of objectivity in its analysis of law. Others feel that it should be classified as a subfield of law that constantly analyzes and attempts to regulate the social phenomena relating to law. Still others argue that sociology of law is separate from both sociology and law and is, on its own, a separate and isolated field of study.


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Post 3

This is interesting. I read an article recently about how laws often show us who the elites and decision makers are in a society and the power relationships between the different classes. I thought that maybe a study of political science and law would be a good area to look at this connection. But now I realize that the sociology of law would be a better option.

It hadn't occurred to me before that we can link crime to social status and power relationships. But it's so true. The Middle East incidents and the wave of public opposition to decades of political oppression and the laws passed to retain the status quo are good examples.

Post 2

Laws determine and define how people should act. It's an outline of what is acceptable in a society, what are its norms, what are its morals and ethics. The laws of a country says a lot about that society. In fact, there are people who study laws to learn about people and their culture.I would say that sociology of law is a good choice for people who are interested in this relationship.

There is also something called "the economic sociology of law." That is a combined study o law, sociology and economics and how they relate to one another. So there are a lot of opportunities when it comes to the study of law and sociology. I'm sure you could emphasize other areas of interest as well.

Post 1

I think that sociology of law is a subfield of sociology. I studied sociology in college and my impression has always been that important sociologist always viewed and studied law in context to sociology as a subfield because laws are part of human life just like any other.

The opposite is true too, laws are influenced by the society in which they are made. But I think there is still a greater tendency to see law as part of sociology and not the other way around.

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