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, and conflict. Next, we investigate the role and operation of law in totalitarian settings such as Nazi and Communist Germany, then consider the challenges that such legacies pose for democracy, the rule of law, and the economy in post-totalitarian societies. In this context, we examine the challenges posed by freedom of speech, the need for ‘transitional justice’, and the relationship between law and the market. Finally, we examine the role of law, lawyers, and courts in social change.
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, ‘illiberal democracy’ and authoritarianism, economic development, and social movements. 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 with 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 mustcomplete two short written protocols that analyze assigned readings, and write the final examination.
Readings for the course are contained in a reader that will be provided at orientation.