Merging Law and Sociology: Beyond the Dichotomies of Socio-Legal Research

Reza Banakar

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearch


This book brings into question the dichotomies inherent in the sociology of law. It is a journey in search of a method capable of taking us beyond the theoretical limitations imposed on socio-legal research by sharply defined divisions such as “law on the books” and “law in action”, “formal” and “informal law”, “facts” and “norms”, “form” and “substance”, “internal” and “external” legal cultures or the “inside” and “outside” of law.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part One two separate, though interrelated, projects are outlined. The first project aims to bring into light the need to reconsider the perplexing epistemological issues, dilemmas, and paradoxes raised by attempts to define the boundary of the socio-legal field. The second project endeavours to initiate a sociological analysis of the socio-legal field by drawing attention to the opposing forces and interests which comprise this field of research. These two projects are approached simultaneously by exploring the feasibility of devising a transformative matrix for sociological studies of law.

Part Two is devoted to the presentation of an aspect of classical works within the sociology of law. It presents the underlying ideas in Leon Petrazycki’s, Eugen Ehrlich’s and Georges Gurvitch’s socio-legal theories and asks if their work still has something to contribute to the current concerns of socio-legal research. This examination is conducted by contraposing the theories and ideas of these scholars with the more recent social theoretical insights and debates, and also by reference to empirical research. More importantly, the problem of the inside/outside dichotomy which was developed in Part One is discussed and revised in the light of the re-examination of the classical sociology of law. One of the points made in this part is that despite the differences between the sociological approaches of Petrazycki, Ehrlich and Gurvitch, their sociology of law differs fundamentally from the works produced (or inspired) by the forerunners of mainstream sociology such as Emil Durkheim or Karl Marx. While the former group aimed to criticise, improve and develop the science of law, and thus in principle shared some of the concerns of the insiders, the latter group studied law primarily from the outside and as a part of their sociological concern with the issues of modernity.

The final part of this book, Part Three, hopes to bring together the insights gained in the previous parts in order to lay a foundation for a sociological theory of legislation. Again, as in the previous parts, I have tried to do this in part by reference to my own empirical research and, in part, by using other empirical studies of the law. Moreover, I have chosen a specific area of law and legal regulation, namely anti-discrimination laws (in Sweden), for this purpose. More specifically, Part Three serves a threefold aim: firstly, it brings some of the central discussions in Part One and Part Two to bear on an examination of the Swedish anti-discrimination laws; secondly, it explores the socio-legal properties of the offices of ombudsmen, which are set up to facilitate the enforcement of these laws; and, thirdly, it places the attempts to ban unlawful discrimination in the broader context of classical and modern socio-legal research in order to outline a theoretical framework based on the interplay between legislation and legal practice.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherGalda and Wilch Publishing: Berlin/Wisconsin.
Number of pages365
ISBN (Print)1-931255-13-X
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law and Society

Free keywords

  • Law
  • Sociology
  • socio-legal
  • Legal theory
  • systems theory
  • postmodernism
  • feminism
  • methodology


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