The Sociological Concept of Law

Roger Cotterrell

in Law's Community

Published in print February 1997 | ISBN: 9780198264903
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682858 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Socio-Legal Studies

The Sociological Concept of Law

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  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law


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This chapter is concerned with a familiar problem of jurisprudence but transplanted to the context of the sociology of law. The central problem of much of jurisprudence has been that of the definition of law or the specification of the appropriate meaning of the word ‘law’. For a great deal of modern jurisprudence this problem has been virtually identical with that of achieving a scientific understanding of law. For the sociology of law the objectives of specifying a concept of law are often different from — although not indifferent to — the concerns of many jurists. This chapter outlines in general terms some approaches to specification of a concept of law that have characterised modern sociological study of law, considers some of their implications, and suggests reasons why some conceptualisations of law may be more useful to the sociology of law than others. It examines the concept of law in normative legal theory and empirical legal theory, along with juridical monism, juridical pluralism, and state law as the dominant but not exclusive form of law.

Keywords: jurisprudence; sociology; law; normative legal theory; empirical legal theory; juridical monism; juridical pluralism; state law

Chapter.  6870 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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