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SUMMARY

  • 1. The social scientific study of law incorporates values, ideologies, social institutions, norms, power relations, and social processes. Since World War II, there has been a growing interest in law among sociologists and other social scientists both in the United States and abroad. Some of the examples of the study of law and society include the effectiveness of law, the impact of law on society, methods of dispute resolution, and research on judicial, legislative, and administrative processes.
  • 2. Academic debate over a proper definition of law has long preoccupied scholars in jurisprudence and in the social sciences. Many scholars would agree that law is a form of social control with explicit sanctions for noncompliance, and it consists of the behaviors, situations, and conditions for creating, interpreting, and applying legal rules.
  • 3. The content of law may be considered as substantive or procedural. Distinctions are also made between public law and private law, civil law and criminal law, case law and statutory law.
  • 4. The principal legal systems in the world today are the Romano-Germanic (civil) law, common law, socialist law, and Islamic law.
  • 5. Law performs a multitude of functions in society. The major functions include social control, dispute settlement, and social change. But law also possesses certain dysfunctions as a result of its conservative tendencies, the rigidity inherent in its formal structure, the restrictive aspects connected with its social control functions, and the fact that certain kinds of discriminations are inherent in the law itself.
  • 6. Sociological analyses of law and society are generally based on two ideal views of society—consensus and conflict perspectives. The former considers society as a functionally integrated, relatively stable system held together by basic consensus of values. The latter conceives of society as consisting of groups characterized by conflict and dissension on values and held together by some members who coerce others.
  • 7. In addition to divergences in the way of studying law and society, controversies also beset the proper role social scientists should play in the study of law and society. The major controversy concerns whether they should try to understand, describe, and empirically analyze social phenomena in a value-free context, or, instead, to criticize malfunctioning components of, and processes in, a social system.
 
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