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About the essays on the Sociology of Law

The sociology of law has different meanings in different places and traditions. In this list of essays, I tried to include everything I have written about the social, economic, political, psychological and "ideal" (or normative) factors that influence the content of positive law in modern systems (a very Kelsenian definition). Because the list is so long, here are some pointers. The essays fall into five categories.

First, I've attempted comprehensive sociological treatments of several aspects of law. In Chapters 3, 9, 10 and 11 of A Critique of Adjudication, I present a fairly complete sociology of law with the goal of placing the institution of adjudication in the sociological context of modern Unitedstatesean electoral politics. In Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy, I tried to give a comprehensive sociological account of how the institution of legal education operates as a reflection and also as a cause of hierarchy in the bar and in society in general. In "Sexual Abuse, Sexy Dressing and the Eroticization of Domination," the goal was to analyze the legal regulation of sexuality using a combination of the economic analysis of law and critical theory (including the varieties of feminist legal theory).

Second, in a number of essays, I've tried to add, to the standard categories of sociological analysis of law, the two elements of a focus on the background rules of private law that condition all aspects of life in modern societies, and the semiotic analysis of legal discourse. The best summaries of these positions are in "The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault!" and "A Semiotics of Legal Argument" (in the extended version, with a "European Introduction"). The semiotic approach from a number of different articles is synthesized, I hope, in Chapters 6, 7 and 8 of A Critique of Adjudication, with, in Chapter 8, an attempt to integrate the sociological element with the psychological approaches of Sartre and Freud. To my mind, the most philosophically sophisticated version of the position that I have managed to produce is "Freedom and Constraint in Adjudication: A Critical Phenomenology." If you are interested in this aspect, you might want to consult the "Legal Theory" topic page.

Third, I've attempted to contrast the above approach to the sociology of law to the approaches of Marx ("The Role of Law in Economic Thought: Essays on the Fetishism of Commodities"), Weber ("The Disenchantment of Logically Formal Legal Rationality, or Max Weber's Sociology in the Genealogy of the Contemporary Mode of Western Legal Thought") and Foucault ("The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault!" already mentioned).

Fourth, I've included in the list various essays that critique today's mainstream law and economics literature, and that attempt to develop an alternative approach that puts the central emphasis on the distributive consequences of legal rules, and particularly on the consequences for "weak parties." In these essays, I've tried to deploy a more complex, though perfectly conventional, variety of economic ideas, including, for example, the idea of unstable equilibrium in low income housing markets, to destabilize some of the conservative biases of the mainstream. If this is your primary interest, I suggest referring to the "Law and Economics" topic page.

Fifth, I've been developing a general theory of the globalization of law and legal thought in the period since 1850. One part of this is the mapping of the spread of different European legal ideas across the world ("Two Globalizations of Law and Legal Thought: 1850-1968"). Another part is an attempt to radically revise the standard treatment of twentieth century legal thought by foregrounding what I call "the social," and treating legal realism as a critique of "the social," presaging the contemporary mode of "conflicting considerations" legal consciousness ("From the Will Theory to the Principle of Private Autonomy: Lon Fuller's Consideration and Form," "François Gény aux États Unis" with Marie-Claire Belleau, "The Disenchantment of Logically Formal Legal Rationality, or Max Weber's Sociology in the Genealogy of the Contemporary Mode of Western Legal Thought," and "Legal Formalism"). Readers interested in this topic might want to consult the Legal History topic as well.