The Law and Society Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) focuses on the role of law as both a barrier to and a tool for change toward a more just, democratic and humane world. In particular, our members focus on the ways legal systems, including our criminal justice systems, reshape and refine the myriad inequalities present in society. We examine legal consciousness and actions at the micro and macro levels as pathways toward legal and social change. Since the earliest days of socio-legal scholarship, researchers have examined the variance in the ways laws are applied over time, as well as among and between individuals and groups (e.g., race, class, gender, and sexuality), something we call the difference between law on the books and law in action. Additional scholars address law in global environmental and economic contexts as well as the ways that innovations and technology are met and transformed by the law. These concentrations are often geared toward understanding how and why the law can both advance and limit our human potential at both the individual and community level. In this light, Division Members understand law and society as mutually embedded forces, which continuously affect one another, and in so doing examine the ways that various forms of power contour these dynamics, structure relationships large and small, and contribute to differences in group dynamics and individual life chances. 

Division mission statement reviewed in November 2023 by Catherine Hastings, Macquarie University, Sydney, Law and Society Chair, 2022-2024, Michael Branch, Hartwick College, Law and Society Division Chair-Elect, 2023-2024 and Chair, 2024-2026, and Jacinta Gau, University of Central Florida, Law and Society Division Vice Chair, 2023-2025. No edits were made. Division mission statement reviewed in November 2022 by Michael Branch, Hartwick College, Law and Society Division Vice Chair, 2021-2023. No edits were made. Division mission statement edited in January 2016 by Jay Borchert, University of Michigan, Law and Society Division Chair, 2014-2016 and Annulla Linders, University of Cincinnati, Law and Society Division Vice Chair, 2015-2017.

Some Readings:

Avarim, Hadar. Cheap on Crime: Recession-Era Politics and the Transformation of American Punishment (University of California Press, 2015).

Brooks, Peter and Paul Gewirtz, Law’s Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law (Yale University Press, 1996).

Calavita, Kitty. Invitation to Law and Society (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Calavita, Kitty and Valerie Jenness. Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (University of California Press, 2015).

Collins, Patricia Hill. Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice (University of Minnesota Press 1998).

Conley, John M. and William M. O’Barr. Just Words: Law, Language and Power (University of Chicago Press, 2005).

Dauber, Michele Landis. The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Delgado, Richard. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (New York University Press, 2001).

Bombrink, John and Daniel Hillyard. Sin No More: From Abortion to Stem Cells, Understanding Crime, Law, and Morality in America (New York University Press 2007)

Ewick, Patricia and Susan Silbey. The Common Place of Law (University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Garland, David. The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007).

Halfmann, Drew. Doctors and Demonstrators: How Political Institutions Shape Abortion Law in the United States, Britain, and Canada (University of Chicago Press 2011).

Kairys, David. The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique (Basic Books, 1998).

Manza, Jeff and Christopher Uggen. Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2006)

McCann, Michael W. Rights at Work: Pay Equity Reform and the Politics of Legal Mobilization (University of Chicago Press, 1994).

Murakawa, Naomi. The Origins of the Carceral Crisis: Racial Order and “Law and Order” in Postwar American Politics (Routledge, 2008).

Page, Joshua. The Toughest Beat: Politics, Punishment, and the Prison Officer’s Union in California (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Pottage, Alain and Martha Mundy, Eds. Law, Anthropology, and the Constitution of the Social: Making Persons and Things (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Rios, Victor M. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys (New York University Press, 2011).

Rosen, Lawrence. Law as Culture: An Invitation. (Princeton University Press, 2006)

Sarat, Austin and Jonathan Simon, Eds. Cultural Analysis, Cultural Studies, and the Law: Moving Beyond Legal Realism (Duke University Press, 2003).

Tonry, Michael. Punishing Race: A Continuing American Dilemma. (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Simon, Jonathan. Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Western, Bruce. Punishment and Inequality (Russell Sage Publications, 2006).