Unit 1: Basics of Law Week 2A September 17, 2013
S ESSION 2:C ONCEPTS ,T YPES , AND
F UNCTIONS OF L AW
What it means to categorize
o Different legal systems and traditions
o Concept, type, function, etc.
Questions we will explore:
o How do we define “law” and its functions?
o Is law neutral?
o What is “praxis” ad how does it inform Legal Studies scholarship?
Definition of Law
Law as an “abstract term” (V&N p. 8) (define abstract: a discretionary approach to assume what law is based on where and
when we are living in)
Informed by opinions about the principles of law
By Max Weber – first sociologist, great student of the bureaucratic system
o “An order is law if it is externally guaranteed by the probability that coercion (physical or psychological) to bring
about conformity or avenge violation, will be applied by a staff of people holding themselves specially ready for
o 3 features of his definition:
Obedience through external pressure
External pressure as coercive (define coercive, relating or using the threat of force) force
Enforcers are state officials
o The last one especially distinguishes state law from other types of orders (e.g. religion, customs and conventions
Principles of Law
Key principles of law in liberal democracies:
o Legal autonomy – legitimacy of the law, you want the notion that law is not affected by politics
o Rule of law – no one is above the law
o Separation of powers – the three branches of government (judicial, legislative, executive) may not infringe one
o Due process – guarantees a professional and swift process for the person