Law and the Social Sciences

Theme for 2016-17

The interface between law and social inquiry has long been a domain of analysis explored by legal scholars and social scientists. In recent decades, the emergence of contemporary critical legal thought, the flourishing of the “Law and” movements, the rise of New Legal Realism, Empirical Legal Studies, and Global Legal Pluralism, the renewed interest in Islamic law and indigenous rights, the debates regarding humanitarianism and human rights in international law have opened new avenues for theoretical approaches. In parallel, the work of law enforcement, the evolution of criminal justice, the phenomenon of mass incarceration, the repression of undocumented immigrants, the adjudication of asylum seekers, the creation of international courts, the judicialization of political affairs, and the politicization of judicial decisions have led to an increasing production of empirical research both qualitative and quantitative. It is this broad multidisciplinary field that the theme will explore.

What are the place, meaning and functions of the law, its institutions, and its professionals in contemporary society? How have values, norms and doctrines embedded in legal theories and practices changed over time and what legacies do they leave? How do legal systems vary across cultures and what sort of arrangements are made when they are confronted with one another? How are new technologies, such as DNA testing, or new knowledge, such as neuroscience, transforming legal practices? How do law and social sciences relate methodologically and is law an object for social scientific inquiry or does it have its own method of analysis? How are the legal disciplines responding to the dialogue with and critique from the social sciences and humanities? These are some of the questions we will address from the multiple perspectives of law, political theory, and penology, as well as history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, economics, and political science. The theme year will be led jointly by Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School, and Visiting Professor Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor at Columbia Law School.

"Allégorie de la Justice," by Elie Delaunay, 1858, Louvre, Paris
©musée du Louvre départment des Arts graphiques

Workshop Texts & Schedule