Sociology of law

The sociology of law (or legal sociology) is often described as a sub-discipline of sociology or an interdisciplinary approach within legal studies.[1] Some see sociology of law as belonging "necessarily" to the field of sociology,[2] but others tend to consider it a field of research caught up between the disciplines of law and sociology.[3] Still others regard it neither a subdiscipline of sociology nor a branch of legal studies but as a field of research on its own right within the broader social science tradition. Accordingly, it may be described without reference to mainstream sociology as "the systematic, theoretically grounded, empirical study of law as a set of social practices or as an aspect or field of social experience".[4] It has been seen as treating law and justice as fundamental institutions of the basic structure of society mediating "between political and economic interests, between culture and the normative order of society, establishing and maintaining interdependence, and constituting themselves as sources of consensus, coercion and social control".[5]

Irrespective of whether sociology of law is defined as a sub-discipline of sociology, an approach within legal studies or a field of research in its own right, it remains intellectually dependent mainly on the traditions, methods and theories of mainstream sociology and, to a lesser extent, on other social sciences such as social anthropology, political science, social policy, criminology, psychology, and geography. As such, it reflects social theories and employs social scientific methods to study law, legal institutions and legal behavior.[6]

More specifically, sociology of law consists of various approaches to the study of law in society, which empirically examine and theorise the interaction between law, legal, non-legal institutions and social factors.[7] Areas of socio-legal inquiry include the social development of legal institutions, forms of social control, legal regulation, the interaction between legal cultures, the social construction of legal issues, legal profession and the relation between law and social change.

More than often sociology of law benefits from research conducted within other fields such as comparative law, critical legal studies, jurisprudence, legal theory, law and economics and law and literature. Its object and that of jurisprudence focused on institutional questions conditioned by social and political situations converge - for example, in the interdisciplinary dominions of criminology and of economic analysis of law - contributing to stretch out the power of legal norms but also making their impacts a matter of scientific concern.[8][9]