Chapter 26: Sociology of Law and New Legal Realism
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This chapter sketches the contours of the dual trajectory of the sociology of law in the writings of nineteenth century European social theorists and early twentieth-century Sociological Jurisprudence and Legal Realist scholars in American law schools. We suggest that these two paths came together in the early law and society movement, which greatly influenced and overlapped with the sociology of law. Early law and society scholarship focused on the “gap” between the “law-on-the-books” and the “law-in-action,” the roles of formal and lay legal actors, and, most importantly, the interplay between law and social inequality. Later work turned to plural normative systems and disputing, legal consciousness, law and social movements, law and organizations, and law in comparative and global contexts. The chapter closes by considering the relationship of the sociology of law and New Legal Realism, focusing on their overlap and on the ways in which the NLR project diverges from the sociology of law. We identify both opportunities and constraints for the NLR project of translating sociology of law into law schools, legal scholarship, and policy.

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