Sociology of Law in Britain: A Case Study

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

Sociology of Law in Britain: A Case Study

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The general character and evolution of the sociology of law was analysed in the previous chapter in terms of confrontations between law and sociology as fields of knowledge and practice. A more detailed consideration of the particular history of the sociology of law in Britain extends this inquiry by providing a concrete case study of interactions between legal studies and the social sciences. This chapter highlights conditions that have promoted and hampered the development of research on law in society, as well as the gradual emergence of a sophisticated sociological perspective on the legal field. Sociology of law presupposes much more than ‘contextualism’: that is, the study of law in social context. Three characteristics of the English common law environment can be identified as having had major long-term effects on the development of social scientific research in Britain: empiricism, Benthamite rationalism, and common law pragmatism. A further strand of social scientific research in the field of law is represented by criminology.

Keywords: Britain; law; sociology; legal studies; social sciences; common law; empiricism; rationalism; pragmatism; criminology

Chapter.  6612 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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