The notion of law as a social phenomenon would have surprised educators and scholars a century ago. For them, law was a science and the library was the ultimate source of all legal knowledge. Our contemporary willingness to see law in a social context—reflecting social relations, for example, or precipitating social changes—is a relatively recent development, spurred during the last quarter century by the work of a generation of scholars (mostly social scientists and law professors) who believe the perspectives of the social sciences are essential to a better understanding of the law.
Law and the Social Sciences provides a unique and authoritative assessment of modern sociolegal research. Its impressive range and depth, the centrality of its concerns, and the stature of its contributors all attest to the vitality of the law-and-society movement and the importance of interdisciplinary work in this field.
Each chapter is both an exposition of its author’s point of view and a survey of the pertinent literature. In treating such topics as law and the economic order, legal systems of the world, the deterrence doctrine, and access to justice, the authors explore overlapping themes—the tension between public and private domains, between diffused and concentrated power, between the goals of uniformity and flexibility, between costs and benefits—that are significant to observers not only of our legal institutions but of other social systems as well.