SOSC 1375 Lecture Notes - Social Constructionism, Positive Law

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16 Oct 2011

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What is law? What counts as law?
A set of rules
A system looking for equality in society
System to keep order, rules, justice
Protect personal liberties
Safe guarding of rights
A way of balancing competing interests
Law is not natural or fixed and there isn't a universal idea of
what law is
Since there are a lot of theories of what law is there isn't a fixed
understanding of law
What counts as law?
Some see it as a vehicle of justice and some see it as a vehicle of
oppression and some see it as a state right or a denial of rights
What you come to know about law is creative and opposite to
what we think about it being a set of rules
Their very context specific and its a human process
It was created by us
Law is human fundamentally
like most humans law have good and bad trades
It makes mistakes, behaves badly and according to its
It may appear as a well oiled machine that's reliable and
predictable and it is an image
Law is concerned with its appearance and its concerned about
what other people think
But underneath its flawed
Were fine as long as its going in the background and when it fails
and its not going were thinking what the hell is going on
We want to have this much bigger idea of law
We make laws then we assume that everything that has
happened before that law is just wiped clean and that's not the case,
often laws are oppressed to stop injustice in society and it doesn't
necessarily have that affect
What we count as law is to pay attention as to how it really
works and how it really behaves
Law requires social interaction in order to give meaning to its
It doesn't hover above society rather its an integral part of how
we go through to society and how we function
We are all in different way legal subjects
Your a legal subject the moment you are born as a citizen not
when you break the law
Notion of rights and citizenship are legal concepts
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We are all subjects of law, we are not subject TO law in the same
We don't all have the same status in social structures
Have to look at what people are a part of
The changes of law doesn't necessarily change in the changes of
Us war on drugs
Even though the human charter has had many positive effects, it
hasn't done any difference in Canada but in the us it has allowed
them to erase their past, ex. Locking upmentally ill people
The law just might not be the best way on justice in the social
We continue to believe and behave as though the law embodies
higher moral values rather then it being socially constructed to
appear that way
Social construct = humans in society has constructed those
norms and values from people in society
The official version of the law
What is socio-legal studies?
Review of course syllabus and questions
Social Constructionism
A sociological theory of how knowledge is produced and how particular
social phenomena (such as law) develop in a particular context
Both the ideals and practices of law are recognized as cultural products
or artifacts that tell us something about that culture
The goal is to being able to read about this artifact, such as its history
Its culturally produced and it tells us something about that artifact
And if its socially constructed then it has no meaning till we say it does
Sometimes it has no meaning until we say it is
Role in the nature of law also changes over time as it takes on new
Depends upon particular social conditions to define it
We still see lots of evidence of this
Law does not work that way, you cant just start doing it a different way
Relationship between law and morality and law and justice are
reflected in the imagination of the idealized version of the law and its
because of this divine thing that tells us what to do and governs us
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