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UC Berkeley


Law and Society

Field Description

The interdisciplinary study of law and society is different from a lawyer’s conception of the law in terms of doctrines and disputes of interpretation. The Research Field on Law and Society draws on course offerings in Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, History, Legal Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Rhetoric and Sociology.  Students in this field explore the historical preconditions for the emergence of law and its specialized practices, such as criminal law, and seek to understand the reasons for cross-national variance in legal systems. Students study the law as a system both of rights and for adjudication of disputes, as a mechanism for enabling and containing social change, as a means of integration and normalization of behavior, and as a source of power and legitimacy. Both empirical and normative questions about the legitimacy of the law are central to this research field.

Library Resources is forthcoming; meanwhile, please contact Lynn Jones at

Recent ISF Senior Theses

  • We Carry You in Our Blood: Forensic Evidence and Transnational Justice in Chile
  • Class-Based Apartheid: The Toil of the Poor in India
  • The Influence of John Locke on 17th and 18th Century North American Conceptions of Law and Society
  • Fighting Poverty Through Human Rights: The Socio-Economic Impact of Legal Developments on the African Poor
  • The Structure and Effectiveness of Truth Commissions in South Africa and Guatemala: A Comparative Analysis
  • Telling on Others: The Rationalization of Snitching
  • The International Criminal Court: Major Problems and Debates
  • How Can We Help: An Institutional Analysis of the Legal Challenges to Humanitarian Aid in the 21st Century
  • Profits and People: The Effects of Foreign Direct Investment on Human Rights in Burma, 1990-2010
  • A Modern Application of the Propaganda Model: U.S. News Coverage of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution

Relevant UC Berkeley Courses

  • Peace and Conflict Studies 127: Human Rights and Global Politics
  • History C187: The History and Practice of Human Rights
  • Political Science 124C: Ethics and Justice in International Affairs
  • Political Science 150: The American Legal System
  • Legal Studies 102: Policing and Society
  • Legal Studies 139: Comparative Perspectives on Norms and Legal Traditions
  • Legal Studies 151: Law, Self, and Society
  • Sociology 114: Sociology of Law
  • Sociology 140: Politics and Social Change
  • Rhetoric 160: Introduction to the Rhetoric of Legal Discourse
  • Anthropology 157: Anthropology of Law

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van den Berg, P. A. J. 2007. The Politics of European Codification: A History of the Unification of Law in France, Prussia, the Austrian Monarchy and the Netherlands. Groningen, Netherlands: Europa Law Publishing.

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Hoffmann, Stefan-Ludwig, ed. 2010. Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Kennedy, David and Joseph E. Stiglitz, eds. 2013. Law and Economics with Chinese Characteristics: Institutions for Promoting Development in the Twenty-First Century. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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Mamdani, Mahmood. 1996. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Manela, Erez. 2009. The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Mattei, Ugo and Laura Nader. 2008. Plunder: When the Rule of Law Is Illegal. 1 edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Méndez, Juan E. 2001. “National Reconciliation, Transnational Justice, and the International Criminal Court.” Ethics & International Affairs 15(1):25–44.

Mendez, Juan E., Guillermo A. O’Donnell, and Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, eds. 1999. The (Un)Rule of Law and the Underprivileged in Latin America. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Merryman, John Henry. 2007. The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Europe and Latin America. 3 edition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Nardulli, Peter F., Buddy Peyton, and Joseph Bajjalieh. 2013. “Conceptualizing and Measuring Rule of Law Constructs, 1850-2010.” Journal of Law and Courts 1(1):139–92.

Peerenboom, Randall, ed. 2004. Asian Discourses of Rule of Law. Theories and Implementation of Rule of Law in Twelve Asian Countries, France and the U.S. London and New York: Routledge.

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Pocock, J. G. A. 1987. The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: A Study of English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Rajagopal, Balakrishnan. 2003. International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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Rios, Victor M. 2011. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York: New York University Press.

Rouland, Norbert. 1994. Legal Anthropology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Trubek, David M., Helena Alviar Garcia, Diogo R. Coutinho, and Alvaro Santos, eds. 2014. Law and the New Developmental State: The Brazilian Experience in Latin American Context. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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