Law as an Instrument of Social Change

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For decades now law and society theorists have been preoccupied with attempts to explain the relationship between legal and social change in the context of development of legal institutions. They viewed the law both as an independent and dependent variable (cause and effect) in society and emphasized the interdependence of the law with other social systems.

In its most concrete sense, social change means large numbers of people are engaging in group activities and relationships that are different from those in which they or their parents engaged in previously. Thus, social change means modifications in the way people work, rear a family, educate their children, govern themselves, and seek ultimate meaning in life. There are various factors which determine the rate and direction of social change. Some factors include (i) Biological factor (ii) Physical factor (iii) Technological factor (iv) Cultural factor (v) Economical factor and so many more. Legislation is one of the most powerful and important factor or tool of social change.


The conversion of Rome from Republic to Empire could not have been accomplished except by means of explicit legal decree buttressed by the doctrine of imperial sovereignty. Law, far from being a reflection of social reality, is a powerful means of accomplishing reality – that is, of fashioning it or making it. Law and especially legislation is a vehicle through which a programmed social evolution can be brought about.1 The Soviet Union succeeded in making enormous changes in society by the use of law. China also managed to moderate through law its population growth and as a result devote more of its resources to economic development and modernization. _

1 Hosen N, Reform of Indonesian Law in the Post – Soeharto era (1998-1999), PhD Thesis Faculty of Law, University of Wollongong, 2004. p25.
The law, through legislative...
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