MIT OpenCourseWare: Law and Society

MIT’s OpenCourseWare
21A.219 / 11.163J / 17.249J Law and Society
Want to take a course that MIT students have taken? Through the OpenCourseWare initiative you have the ability to develop a program of self study based upon previously held classes. The first course in the series is Law and Society. This anthropology course was held at MIT during the spring of 2003. Our series will focus on law classes but the OpenCourseWare initiative has many classes in numerous disciplines and is well worth checking out on its own.

Happy learning!

Course Materials:

Course Syllabus (PDF)
Lecture Notes:
Jurisprudential Paradigms
Criminal Justice System
Civil Justice System
Civil Justice System (Continued)
Players In The System: Judges
Legal Profession
Alternatives to Law: Varieties of Dispute Processing
Evolutionary Theories of Social Change: Maine and Durkheim
Law, Class Conflict and the Economy: Marx
Law and the State: Weber
Law and Social Change (Continued)
Law and Everyday Life, The Common Place of Law
Additional Materials:

    Course Description:

    Law is a common and yet distinct aspect of everyday life in modern societies. This course examines the central features of law as a social institution and as a feature of popular culture. We will explore the nature of law as a set of social systems, central actors in the systems, legal reasoning, and the relationship of the legal form and reasoning to social change. The course emphasizes the relationship between the internal logic of legal devices and economic, political and social processes. Emphasis is placed upon developing a perspective which views law as a practical resource, a mechanism for handling the widest range of unspecified social issues, problems, and conflicts, and at the same time, as a set of shared representations and aspirations.

    We will explore the range of experiences of law for its ministers (lawyers, judges, law enforcement agents and administrators) as well as for its supplicants (citizens, plaintiffs, defendants). We will examine how law is mobilized and deployed by professionals and ordinary citizens. We cannot cover all aspects of the legal system, nor focus on all the different actors. A set of topics has been selected to develop understanding of the situational and systemic demands within which actors in the legal system operate and perform their roles; at the same time, we will try to discover systematic patterns in the uses and consequences of law. Throughout the course there is concern for understanding what we mean by legality and the rule of law.

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