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Unit information: Social and Legal Theory in 2014/15

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Unit name Social and Legal Theory
Unit code LAWDM0083
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Bibbings
Open unit status Open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides a core element in the MSc in Socio-Legal Research. Students are taught general research methods and philosophy of the social sciences separately. This course therefore concentrates on advanced legal and, more specifically, socio-legal research methods. It includes: statutory interpretation and precedent; doctrinal legal methods (including library based research and case analysis); socio-legal methods (including examination of a range of methods and ethical issues drawn from diverse fields of socio-legal scholarship). The latter includes consideration of feminist scholarship, critical legal studies, biography, discourse analysis, postmodernism, interpretivism, and positivism and draws upon a range of interdisciplinary sources from the social sciences and humanities. No prior knowledge of law or of sociology is assumed, although the course assumes participation in the core research methods and philosophy of social science courses alongside it. More detailed applications of the theoretical content take place in the options and the compulsory dissertation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to:

a) lay out the core elements of a range of different approaches to the study of law within sociology

b) critically analyse different theoretical such approaches to law

c) provide criteria for the selection of appropriate theory and methods

d) understand the contribution of different sociological theories in understanding key areas of law

e) select the most appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches for their own research in sociology of law. Students should be able to summarise theoretical tenets accurately, to contrast and compare theoretical principles from different theorists, and to think critically about the implications each theory has for law and legal institutions in a modern context.

The coursework essay of 5,000 words will be based on a choice from 6 or 7 different questions, each of which will be structured in such a way as to allow sufficient space for the student to:

i) fully develop their understanding of a particular sociological approach and compare its application to more than one key area of law, or

ii) to compare two or more different sociological theories and the contributions they make to a key area of law; and to do so in a context which allows them to demonstrate their understanding of what they have learnt in relation to their own research interests.

Teaching Information

Ten two hour seminars

Assessment Information

One piece of coursework of 5,000 words in length

Reading and References

  • R Cotterell, The Sociology of Law, London: Butterworths, 1992
  • R Banakar & M Travers (eds), An Introduction to Law and Social Theory, Oxford: Hart, 2002
  • A Hunt, Explorations in Law and Society: Toward a Constitutive Theory of Law, London: Routledge, 1993
  • A Hunt & G Wickham, Foucault and Law: Towards a Sociology of Law as Governance, London: Pluto, 1994