Beyond Law in Context: Developing a Sociological Understanding of Law, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Beyond Law in Context

Developing a Sociological Understanding of Law, 1st Edition

By David Nelken


348 pages

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Hardback: 9780754628026
pub: 2009-02-19
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This intriguing collection of essays by David Nelken examines the relationship between law, society and social theory and the various ideas social theorists have had about the actual and ideal 'fit' between law and its social context. It also asks how far it is possible to get beyond this mainstream paradigm. The value of social theorising for studying law is illustrated by specific developments in substantive areas such as housing law, tort law, the law of evidence and criminal law. Throughout the chapters the focus is on the following questions. What is gained (and what may be lost) by putting law in context? What attempts have been made to go beyond this approach? What are their (necessary) limits? Can law be seen as anything other than in some way both separate from and relating to 'the social'? The distinctiveness of this approach lies in its effort to keep in tension two claims. Firstly, that social theorising about legal practices is vitally important for understanding the connections between legal and social structures and revealing what law means and does for (and to) various social actors. The second point is that it does not follow that what we learn in this way can be assumed to be necessarily relevant to (re)shaping legal practices without further argument that pays heed to law's specificity.


'…an ambitious and impressive collection of essays…' Law and Politics Book Review '…this fine collection…analysed with great precision and sophistication…' International Journal of Law in Context 'Nelken’s volume thus tells us where law and society scholarship has been, how it got there, and where (potentially) it is heading. The individual essays are illuminating and stimulating; the threads that sew them together are crucial for understanding the law and society movement. Beyond Law in Context is essential. Law and Politics Book Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part A Only Connect: The 'gap problem' in the sociology of law: a theoretical review; Law in action or living law?: back to the beginning in the sociology of law; Is there a crisis in law and legal ideology?; Legislation and its constraints: a case study of the 1965 British Rent Act. Part B Changing the Questions: Beyond the study of 'law and society'?; Changing paradigms in the sociology of law; Criminal law and criminal justice: some notes on their irrelation; The loneliness of law's meta-theory; Are disputes between law and science resolvable?; Can law learn from social science? Part C Finding the Limits: Can there be a sociology of legal meaning?; Blinding insights? The limits of a reflexive sociology of law; Comparatists and transferability; The meaning of success in transnational legal transfers; An e-mail from global Bukowina; Index.

About the Author

David Nelken, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Macerata University, Italy, Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff University, and Visiting Professor of Criminology in the Oxford Law Faculty, UK. Dr Nelken is the recipient of the ISA-RCSL Adam Podgórecki Prize 2011, for outstanding achievements in socio-legal research, in the form of distinguished and outstanding lifetime achievement.

About the Series

Collected Essays in Law

Collected Essays in Law
Each volume in this Collected Essays series brings together a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. The articles are drawn from a wide range of journals, conference proceedings and books. The collections make readily available the authors' own selections of their most important writings on specific themes, together with an introduction which outlines the context of the work and comments on its significance and potential. The collected essays complement each other to give a retrospective view of the author's achievements and a developmental picture of a subject area. Some volumes include critiques of the author's work which have called for a response and other contain previously unpublished essays on the selected subject.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General