Formation and current trends in development of sociology of law in te USA and Great Britain

Maslovskaya E.V.

Sociological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, St.-Petersburg, Russia

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Maslovskaya E.V. Formation and current trends in development of sociology of law in te USA and Great Britain. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2015. No 4. P. 87-95


The article surveys evolution of American and British sociology of law from the 1960s to the present day. Main theoretical approaches to studying legal institutions and leading research topics are singled out. Differences between sociology of law and juridical disciplines are emphasized, and main peculiarities of institutionalization of sociology of law in the USA and Great Britain are discussed. The rise of structural functionalism was arguably crucial for the development of American sociology of law. T. Parsons’ ideas were elaborated by his followers influencing researchers not belonging to functionalist school. Unlike functionalism conflict theory did not lead to emergence of a particular approach in sociology of law though conflict perspective was important for this research sphere in the 1960s. A considerable influence on sociological studies of law in the USA was exerted by microsociological approaches particularly ethnomethodology. A specifically American perspective on law is represented by D. Black’s “pure sociology of law” that can be considered a middle-range sociological theory. Importance of J. Alexander’s ideas for sociology of law is discussed also. Alexander’s analysis of the civil sphere and its interaction with legal institutions might be relevant for sociological studies of legal systems. In comparison to the USA, British sociology of law did not have own theorists. At the same time there was competition of British sociology of law with purely empirical “socio-legal studies” and theoretical approach of “critical jurisprudence”. In Britain the influence of American sociology and “continental” theories affected sociological studies of law. However, original approaches have been elaborated by British researchers such as “sociology of constitutions”.

sociology of law; functionalism; cultural sociology; microsociology; socio-legal studies
Content No 4, 2015