Law & Society

This course is primarily concerned with the age-old dichotomy between law in the law books and law in action. Through the examination of the origin, function and pattern of law in primitive and modern societies from a historical, anthropological and sociological perspective, we will try to understand better, the constraints under which ‘law’ in modern society operates, and the limits on the use of law as an instrument of social change. In the first part of the course, the student will be introduced to basic ideas in classical anthropology and the sociology of law. Questions such as - Are there any ‘universal’ patterns of human behaviour? To what extent is a society’s perception of law influenced or controlled by environmental and econological factors? How are disputes resolved? Is aggression and warfare inherent in the human condition? - will be dealt with. In the second part of the course, these anthropological methods will be applied to a study of the concept of law in diverse societies from a sociological perspective, and to the actual function of law in society. Do patterns of human behaviour discernable in primitive societies hold true in more complex ‘modern’ societies? What are the attributes of a ‘modern’ legal system? Is the concept of ‘law’ in the western sense inevitable and universal in all kinds of societies. What happens to the concept of law in plural societies? Teaching will be by seminars which will include lectures and discussion of assigned readings. No previous knowledge of law anthropology or sociology is required or will be assumed of students.

Login Required