Law & Society Lecture 1 – Introduction & Socio-Legal Theory
What are we going to talk about?
- Social control, economics, morality, complexities (of law), and politics
We will discuss two dominant themes:
1. Classical and contemporary legal theories (first half)
2. Charter & different socio-legal issues morality (second half)
Law is present in ways which we sometimes don’t realize – it overlays all social
processes, and thus affects our behaviour.
Debates: pull on theoretical perspectives. How does each perspective shift the analysis
[of law and society]? Make arguments based on research and theory. Everyone is
entitled to their own opinion however, this course does not focus on the personal so
must remove self from personal.
Exam: June 17 , in-class (like midterm)
Term Paper: morality + charter conflicting rights?
- How has law shifted to change these issues?
- Hardcopy due in-class + submit online to turnitin.com
What is Law and Society?
- How does it govern people’s behaviour?
- Law shifts over time and space it is culturally contingent
- Disciplinary approaches
- Broader context
- Law means different things to different people and definitions also depend on
what it is you are attempting to do with the law
o History, economics, politics
o Area of research, type of methodology used
Introduction to Law and Society
- Where is the law?
o Law is everywhere
Rules around food served in cafeterias, driving your car, taking
public transportation (bus driver has to obey certain laws as well),
type of music on the radio
o Shapes our worldview
Influences what we think is right and wrong
Lens of looking at how we live and interpret our everyday life
o Law is more than legislation (Criminal Code, Charter) and legal bodies
(police, judges) thus it is more than the sum of its parts
- What is the sociology of the law?
o Law as a set of social practices Connections between laws how are they translated into
How does law function outside the justice system? What is it
actually capable of doing? How important is the law – how much
of a necessity is it?
o Interaction of law, legal institutions, legal behaviour
o Development of legal institutions, social control, regulation, social
construction, social change
Influences our interactions
Should law govern morality and ethics? Or is this a place of
What role does the law have in restricting behaviour? Opening up
Who constructs the law? (decides)
o Social context
Economy, culture, who is dominant in politics at the time
1. What is the role of law in society?
2. How do legal processes both influence and are shaped by social, political and
3. What are the links between culture of rights and the regulation of morality?
4. How do different theoretical frameworks analyze contemporary socio-legal
What is a sociological approach to the study of law? How does it differ from other
- What is unique about the sociological approach to law?
o Law is a social phenomenon
- A complex social process
- Historically, culturally, contextually, and socially specific
- How does it impact an individual? How is the law written and enforced? Is it
enforced in different ways? Do different groups experience it differently?
- Dynamic NOT static
o Changes over time
o Society and law are integrated feedback into each other
1920s: prohibition of alcohol = source of society’s ailments
- Temperance movement
- Poverty, domestic abuse, crime would be eliminated if alcohol
was gone - Strong lobby groups
Temperance Act (1878): forbade sale of alcohol until 1920s: different provinces
began to lobby against
Dry community until 1990s
No bars, etc.
Morality tale: marijuana was being categorized as
harmful (more so than heroin)
Movie: well to do youngsters’ lives fell apart b/c of
Today: Cannabis March, 4 20, Toronto Hemp Company,
Kensington Market: Hotbox Café – tools but no sale of marijuana
Though technically illegal, police don’t bother b/c behind closed
USA: some states decriminalized marijuana for personal use
Canada: no criminal sanction but like a traffic ticket; 90 000 people charged with small
amount of marijuana possession last year; it is criminal and police still enforce, but varies
Safe Injection: bring own drugs; supervision – in case of
overdoses, medical staff on standby so is a safer place to use
1988: Supreme Court removed (struck down) abortion
from law – no law surrounds it so it is no longer illegal
Some people thought