Legal Theory, Legal History, & the Social Sciences

Law & Social Theory

The relationship between society and law is a complex and intriguing one, so it’s not surprising that at NYU Law it is viewed through the lenses of multiple disciplines—criminology, sociology, and anthropology, to name a few.

The Law School has several faculty who have PhDs in sociology as well as law degrees, including David Garland, Ryan Goodman, and James Jacobs. Garland is widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost sociologists focusing on crime and punishment. Goodman, currently on leave as the special counsel to the general counsel of the Department of Defense, has published articles in leading law reviews and has also co-authored several books, including Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law. Jacobs has written more than 15 books, most recently, The Eternal Criminal Record.

Other faculty whose scholarship focuses on law and society include Frank Upham, Sally Merry, and Oscar Chase. Upham’s book Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan is generally viewed as the standard reference for discussions of Japanese law and its social and political role in contemporary Japan. Merry teaches the Anthropology of Human Rights, which studies the origins of human rights thinking in Europe and the US and its contemporary elaboration and dissemination in the post-World War II period. Chase leads the Colloquium on Culture and the Law, which examines how legal systems both reflect the cultures in which they operate and change them. Carol Gilligan, a leader in feminist theory and the author of the landmark book In A Different Voice teaches a seminar with David Richards on resisting injustice. Moshe Halbertal and Stephen Holmes also do work in law and social theory; they co-teach Law, Violence, and Antisocial Passions.