Sociology and Law

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Relevance of Sociology for the study of Law.
If societies are based upon agreed upon laws, then they are very much interrelated subjects. They are symbiotic, interwoven, interconnected. When someone commits a crime against another person or their property, they will have to face the consequences in a court of law. Or reduce it to a smaller group such as a tribe. Even amongst members of a tribe, there are laws that may only be verbal, or perhaps not even as formal as that. They are followed because children see them in the form of examples as they grow up. Within each tribe, culture or society, some form of punishment is enforced when a cultural norm is broken. Law can be analyzed sociologically as a method of doing something. Law can be studied as a social process, instrumented by individuals during social interaction. Sociologically, law consists of the behaviors, situations, and conditions for making, interpreting and applying legal rules that are backed by the state’s legitimate coercive apparatus for enforcement.  The sociology of law (or legal sociology) is often described as a sub-discipline of sociology or an interdisciplinary approach within legal studies. While some socio-legal scholars see the sociology of law as "necessarily" belonging to the discipline of sociology, others see it as a field of research caught up in the disciplinary tensions and competitions between the two established disciplines of law and sociology. Yet, others regard it neither as a sub-discipline of sociology nor as a branch of legal studies and, instead, present it as a field of research on its own right within a broader social science tradition. For example, Roger Cotterrell describes the sociology of law 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". The sociology of law became clearly established as an academic field of learning and empirical research after the Second World War. After World War II, the study of law was not central in sociology, although some well-known sociologists did write about the role of law in society. In the work of the Talcott Parsons, for instance, law is conceived as an essential mechanism of social control. In response to the criticisms that were developed against functionalism, other sociological perspectives of law emerged. 1. Critical sociologists developed a perspective of law as an instrument of power. 2. However, other theorists in the sociology of law, such as Philip Selznick, argued that modern law became increasingly responsive to a society's needs and had to be approached morally as well. 3. Still other scholars, most notably the American sociologist Donald Black, developed a resolutely scientific theory of law on the basis of a paradigm of pure sociology. 4. Equally broad in orientation, but again different, is the autopoietic systems theory of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, who sees law as normatively closed, but cognitively open system. The essential insight underlying all sociological approaches to law is that law is a social phenomenon that should, therefore, be studied sociologically. Beyond this core unifying orientation, sociology and law, otherwise known as the sociology of law, or law and sociology, consists of a variety of different approaches, assumptions, and attitudes. This internal proliferation of approaches is the product of diversity at two different levels. 1. First: sociology and law are contrasting bodies of knowledge. Sociology is a social science focused on the study of society, and like all such disciplines its overarching goal is the gathering of knowledge. Law, in contrast, is a practical activity that focuses on completing certain fundamental tasks, including promulgating and enforcing rules, responding to disputes, and maintaining order. 2. Second: each of these contributing bodies of knowledge is in its own...
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