Law, Morality, and Solidarity: The Durkheimian Tradition

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

Law, Morality, and Solidarity: The Durkheimian Tradition

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  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law


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Emile Durkheim's presently underestimated writings on law are important because of his consistent attempt to find links between law and contemporary rnorality. While his lack of attention to questions of political power is initially hard to understand, it is explicable in terms of Durkheim's single-minded concern with moral frameworks of social solidarity. A survey of present applications and developments of Durkheimian legal theory and sociology of law suggests that Durkheim's work should be read primarily as a sociologically informed discussion of what law might be — what it has the potential to become as an expression of solidarity, rather than as an account of law's present moral or political character in complex societies. Durkheim's legal sociology reflects broader problems apparent in his ideas on the state and politics generally; ideas that seem consistently to underemphasise social and political conflict, and thus the role of law in such conflict. Durkheim believes that social control is a central — perhaps the central — concern of sociology.

Keywords: Emile Durkheim; law; solidarity; morality; sociology; politics; conflict; social control

Chapter.  9716 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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