Heather N Pool
Inquiry into how law matters in social practice. Examines general theories of law, the workings of legal institutions, and the character of legally constituted practices and relationships in diverse terrains of social life. Offered: jointly with POL S 363.
This class explores the fundamental roles that law plays in organizing contemporary social life. We shall consider various ways of understanding law’s complex presence: how law shapes and enables social interaction, how law constructs differences among people and their actions, how law mediates and enforces power relationships, and how law matters for the kind of society we have. Particular attention will be given to three sets of relationships: between legal meaning-making and legal practice; between legal rights, social identity, and community; and between law and violence. Our inquiries will examine official legal institutions (courts) and actors (judges, police, lawyers, etc.), but the class will emphasize how law works as a complex array of norms, symbols, discourses, and practices that infuse and shape all aspects of social life. We thus will address the politics of law at national, subnational, and transnational levels. Case materials will include much on the U.S. but draw on comparative historical global perspectives.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
The course will consist of M/W large lectures, and T/Th discussion sections. Although the lectures will be, um, lectures, there will be some discussion. As a result, all students attending lectures are expected to have read the assigned course materials prior to each lecture, and should be prepared to answer questions about the texts in lecture.
There are no formal prerequisites for this class, although grounding in a basic knowledge of American politics and social organization will be assumed. This class is a core requirement for the Law, Societies, and Justice Program, and counts as an American politics course (Field D) for Political Science majors.
Class assignments and grading
Your final grade in this course will be determined on the basis of your class participation, at least two papers (maybe three), and (possibly) two exams.