This course explores theoretical and historical perspectives on the intersection of law, society and politics, and aims to foster discussion of contemporary issues among students from different cultures and disciplines. After an introduction to comparative law and legal culture, we read some classical social theorists (Durkheim, Weber and Marx), and consider their relevance to contemporary debates about morality, (dis)obedience, conflict, and property. Next, we investigate the role and operation of law in totalitarian settings such as Nazi and Communist Germany. Finally, we consider the difficulties such legacies pose for fostering the rule of law in post-totalitarian societies. In this context, we also examine the need for ‘transitional justice’, as well as the relationship between law, the market, and economic development. Finally, we explore the limits on the exercise of free speech and the right of association.
Overall, the course aims to develop skills at using theory and history to inform debates on contemporary challenges, such as multiculturalism, punishment, (illegal) downloading/streaming/file-sharing, and economic development. In addition to gaining substantive expertise in various socio- and politico-legal fields, students develop communicative competence through participatory exercises, and intercultural competence through discussion with other students.
This course is designed for all students having an interest in social sciences – in particular, history, sociology or political science – or in law. It is conceived as an undergraduate class, but the variety of students taking this course typically ranges from first-year students to post-graduate students. This experiential diversity provides unique opportunities for students to learn from one another.
No prior knowledge of law or of social science is required; the only prerequisite is an open mind.
Students are expected to attend each class; read the literature assigned for each class; and participate in class discussions and excursions. In addition, each student must complete a writing assignment (written protocol) analyzing some of the assigned readings. Students can choose between writing one written protocol of 6-8 pages, or two written protocols of 3-4 pages each. Finally, each student is required to take a written final examination.
Readings for the course are contained in a reader that will be provided at orientation.