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The Social Organization of Law

Introductory Readings

Edited by Austin Sarat
Foreword by Sally Engle Merry

Publication Date - 01 April 2004

ISBN: 9780195330342

596 pages
6-7/8 x 9-3/16 inches

In Stock

Working from a broad perspective, this text treats law as a set of institutions and practices--combining moral argument, distinctive interpretive traditions, and the social organization of violence.


Austin Sarat's The Social Organization of Law: Introductory Readings begins with a simple premise--law seeks to work in the world, to order, change, and give meaning to society--and describes legal processes as socially organized. This book connects legal studies to the study of society in two different senses.

First, the readings highlight law's responsiveness to various dimensions of social stratification. They also draw attention to the questions of when, why, and how legal decisions and actions respond to the social characteristics (e.g. race, class, and gender) of those making the decisions as well as those who are subject to them. These questions inevitably raise issues of justice and fairness, highlighting the moral dimensions of legal life.

Second, Sarat treats law itself as a social organization, emphasizing the complex relations between its various component parts (e.g., judges and jurors, police and prosecutors, appellate courts, and trial courts). The book examines the traditional subject of professional legal study--namely appellate court opinions--and describes some of the most pressing controversies of legal interpretation while questioning how those opinions take on meaning in social life. Sarat also questions whether those at the top of law's bureaucratic structure effectively control the behavior of others in the legal system's chain of command.

This anthology provides accessible, up-to-date materials (such as readings on terrorism and the challenges it poses to law, racial profiling, and gay rights) juxtaposed to the classics of the field. Introductions to each reading, along with the notes and questions written by the author, unpack the issues and engage students, enabling them to link the material from one chapter to another. Additional suggested readings provide stimulus for further inquiry.

The Social Organization of Law offers students a broad perspective that treats law as a set of institutions and practices combining moral argument, distinctive interpretive traditions, and the social organization of violence.

Table of Contents

    Part I. When Law Fails
    Section 1. The Limits of Legal Protection
    1. 'Hockey Dad's Death Probed as Homicide,' Ed Hayward and David Talbot
    2. 'Dad Sentenced to 6 to 10 Years for Rink Death,' Geraldine Baum
    3. DeShaney v. Winnebago
    4. 'A Crime of Self Defense,' George Fletcher
    5. 'In the Nation's Capital, It's the Season of Insecurity,' Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
    6. 'The Spirit of the Laws,' Harold Koh
    Section 2. What Law Is For
    7. 'Leviathan,' Thomas Hobbes
    8. 'Law as a Weapon in Social Conflict,' Austin Turk
    9. 'On Liberty,' John Stuart Mill
    10. Lawrence v. Texas
    11. 'Law as Rhetoric, Rhetoric as Law,' James Boyd White
    Part II. The Search for Law
    Section 3. Three Dilemmas of Social Organization
    12. 'Before the Law,' Franz Kafka
    Severity and Leniency
    13. 'Property, Authority and the Criminal Law,' Douglas Hay
    Bureaucratic Control and Rule Following
    14. 'Violence and the Word,' Robert Cover
    Part III. Access to Justice: The Demand for Law and Law's Demands
    Section 4. Lining Up at the Door of Law
    15. 'The Emergence and Transformation of Disputes,' William Felstiner, Richard Abel, and Austin Sarat
    16. 'Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences,' Peter Huber
    17. 'The Crisis Is Injuries, Not Liability,' Richard Abel
    18. 'How Jury Decided How Much the Coffee Spill Was Worth,' Andrea Gerling
    19. 'Jurors' Judgments of Business Liability in Tort Cases,' Valerie Hans and William Loftquist
    Section 5. Lawyers in Civil Cases
    20. 'Lawyers and Consumer Protection Laws,' Stewart Macaulay
    21. 'The Justice Broker: Lawyers & Ordinary Litigation,' Hebert Kritzer
    22. 'The Impact of Legal Counsel on Outcomes for Poor Tenants in New York City's Housing Court,' Carroll Seron et al.
    Section 6. Whose Law Is It Anyway?
    23. Rusk v. Maryland
    24. 'Rape,' Susan Estrich
    25. 'Risking Relationships,' Phoebe Morgan
    26. 'Rights Talk and the Experience of Law,' Sally Engle Merry
    Section 7. Who Speaks and Who Is Heard: The Continuing Significance of Class
    27. Goldberg v. Kelley
    28. 'Subordination, Rhetorical Survival Skills, and Sunday Shoes,' Lucie White
    29. 'Dependency by Law,' Frank Munger
    Part IV. Severity and Leniency: Administering a System of Discretionary Justice
    Section 8. From Severity to Leniency: Plea Bargaining and the Possibility of Justice
    30. 'American Courts: Process and Policy,' Lawrence Baum
    31. Scott v. United States
    32. 'Torture and Plea Bargaining,' John Langbein
    Section 9. Lawyers in Criminal Cases
    33. 'Convictability and Discordant Locales,' Lisa Frohmann
    34. 'Understanding Lawyers' Ethics,' Monroe Freedman and Abbe Smith
    35. 'Fine Line in Indictment: Defense vs. Complicity,' Laura Mansnerus
    36. 'Defending White Collar Crime,' Kenneth Mann
    37. 'The Practice of Law as a Confidence Game,' Abraham S. Blumberg
    Section 10. Juries in Criminal Cases: Biased or Conscientious Judgment
    38. 'Trial By Jury,' Alex de Tocqueville
    39. 'Are Twelve Heads Better Than One?' Phoebe Ellsworth
    40. 'Jury Duty: When History and Life Coincide,' Elisabeth Perry
    41. 'When Race Trumps Truth in Court,' Michael Weiss and Karl Zinsmeister
    42. United States v. Thomas
    Section 11. Sentencing
    43. 'Federal Sentencing Guidelines: A View From the Bench,' Nancy Gertner
    44. Ewing v. California
    45. 'Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform,' Cassia Spohn
    46. 'Sizing up Sentences,' Michael Higgins
    Part V. Organizing Law's Violence
    Section 12. Policing the Police
    47. 'Justice Without Trial,' Jerome Skolnick
    48. 'Broken Windows,' James Q. Wilson and George Kelling
    49. 'Policing Disorder,' Bernard Harcourt
    50. 'Profiles in Justice? Police Discretion, Symbolic Assailants, and Stereotyping,' Milton Heumann and Lance Cassak
    51. 'The Myth of Racial Profiling,' Heather MacDonald
    52. Tennessee v. Garner
    53. 'Officers in Bronx Fire 41 Shots, and an Unarmed Man Is Killed,' Michael Cooper, New York Times
    54. 'To Shoot or Not? Fellow Officers Say They Fear Facing Same Decision,' Katherine Finkelstein, New York Times
    55. 'Want to Torture? Get a Warrant,' Alan M. Dershowitz
    Section 13. Punishment: Imprisonment
    56. 'Persons and Punishment,' Herbert Morris
    57. 'Punishment, Power, and Justice,' Patricia Ewick
    58. United States v. Bailey
    59. 'Deadly Symbiosis: Rethinking Race and Imprisonment in Twenty-First Century America,' Loïc Wacquant
    Section 14. The Death Penalty: Controlling Juries/Preventing Discrimination
    60. Furman v. Georgia
    61. Gregg v. Georgia
    62. McClesky v. Kemp
    63. 'Folk Knowledge as Legal Action,' Benjamin Steiner et al.
    Section 15. The Future of Capital Punishment
    64. 'God's Justice and Ours,' Antonin Scalia
    65. 'I Must Act,' George Ryan

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