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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

George I Lovell
POL S 561
Seattle Campus

Law and Politics

Points and levels at which law and politics intersect. What is distinctive about legal forms; how these legal forms influence, and are influenced by, politics. Conceptions of law, courts and public policy, law and bureaucracy, civil and criminal justice, and the legal profession.

Class description

This seminar introduces graduate students to a field of interdisciplinary scholarship known as “law and society” or socio-legal studies. The course serves as a core course for students in Political Science who work in the field of Public Law. As such, it covers some canonical works by political scientists on the role of courts and judges in politics. However, the seminar is consciously designed to appeal to graduate students in other departments who are looking for an introductory overview of the law and society field. The authors of the readings are trained or teach in a variety of academic disciplines, including History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Political Science.

The course is organized around some core themes in the law and society tradition: The roles of courts and other legal institutions; individual and group disputing processes; institutional and discursive mechanisms of social control; colonial and post-colonial legacies for social ordering and disputing; and comparative analyses of legal cultures. Socio-legal scholarship has developed as an alternative to the work of more conventional legal scholars who focus on official rules, judicial doctrines, or judicial decision-making. The course thus focuses on the content of legal rules and doctrines only incidentally and in order to illustrate broader theoretical points.

The readings will showcase different methodologies used by scholars in the field. The course also aims to provide a basic understanding the historical development of the law and society field. Readings include by established classics in the field and recent work by younger scholars. Because the entire field cannot be covered in 10 weeks, the course does not aim to be comprehensive. Readings are consciously chosen to highlight socio-legal scholarship in areas that connect with faculty and graduate students at the University of Washington.

The majority of the readings focus on the United States, but there are also numerous readings that look outside the United States. Students who are interested in other places are welcome in the class and can focus outside the United States on assignments.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

This class is only open to graduate students. No exceptions.

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by George I Lovell
Date: 02/27/2012