Law and Society
Week 10 Lecture 11
Law and Social Change
Mobilizing law and Roach’s “Role of Charter Litigation”
What is Social Change?
• Large numbers of people engaging in group activities and relationships that are different from those in
which they or their parents engaged in previously.
• (i.e. modification in the way people work, rear family, educate their children, govern themselves and
seek meaning in life)
▯Recognition that traditions change, customs change.
• What causes social change?
• A multitude of interdependent factors
▯(e.g. technology, conflict, political and economic factors)
Some theories that have explored this relationship already:
• Marxism – class conflict and organization
▯Also see Chambliss article re: Vagrancy laws
• Durkheim – law reflects complexities of society
▯Also see Weber’s types of legitimate authority. (Charismatic, legal traditional, legal rational)
▯These types of legitimate authority may or may not be supported in the law.
Controversial Relationship between law and social change:
• Is law determined by the sense of justice and the moral sentiments of the population?
▯(i.e: is it close to, and reflecting, prevailing social norms?)
• Or is law a means through which social change can be brought about?
▯(i.e: is law on the cutting edge of changing mores)
Two Different Perspectives:
• Jeremy Bentham: law can/ should lead society
▯Legal reforms should respond to new social needs and restructure society.
• Von Savigny: Law is/ should be following society’s lead
▯Only fully developed customs can form the basis of legal change.
• Two very different perspectives on the role of law.
Bentham: Law Leads Society:
• Law should create the greatest good for the greatest number of people
• There fore, the law should intervene in society to make positive changes where these are required
• Entails a confidence in the power of law
• Inherent benefits of law.
Van Savigny: Law Follows Costumes, traditions and what society believes ought to happen: