Definition of Legal Sociology: History and Scope

Understanding the Definition of Sociology of Law: History and Scope – Sociology in the field of science plays a vital role in developing knowledge that is increasing rapidly today. Sociology is present as a study that gives birth to social values ​​that benefit humans and their surroundings, which incredibly impact human social activities.

In social life, humans must always apply sociological values ​​in their activities, such as their daily activities that require the role and assistance of other humans to support their daily activities. For this reason, it is essential to always socialize in society because that is a manifestation of sociological values, ​​which we will discuss now.

In a social stratum, laws are needed to regulate every human activity so that there is no chaos caused by irresponsible humans when carrying out their free will. Indeed, every human being has the freedom to determine his way of life. Still, when there is no law in human social activity, this freedom interferes with the release of other humans.

For this reason, a study of the sociology of law regulates the relationship between sociology and law and its scope, which we can understand as a guide for us to comply with applicable social and legal regulations.

History of Legal Sociology

To understand more deeply about the sociology of law, it’s a good idea to understand the historical background of an extended study of the sociology of law itself, which you can see below:

As one dimension of sociology, the sociology of law is not much discussed in Indonesia. Not much has been written in detail about the history of the sociology of law and its development.

The sociology of law aims to go beyond what legal science usually does, bringing society and its social norms and values ​​into legal analysis. Thus, legal sociology opens up new opportunities to theorize critical issues in legal science.

Sociology of Law in Europe

From a profound historical perspective, Montesquieu is usually the first to address the sociology of law. He explained and compared the different rules of different societies. His analysis describes how direction depends on a society’s geographical location, culture, and social conditions.

Max Weber played a role in the history of world legal sociology. Max Weber also has services in the sociology of law, namely the classification of authority/power.

If viewed from the point of view of the history of modern society, the history of the sociology of law was started by Karl Renner and Max Weber. Karl Renner is a German politician who has been president of Germany twice. Renner was deeply interested in the relationship between private law and private wealth as a scholar.

Thanks to the book Ein Beitrag zur Kritik des bürgerlichen Rechts (1904), Renner is known as one of the founders of legal sociology. In his book, Renner argues that the separation of public and private law is a creation of capitalism.

Max Weber, one of the founders of sociology, also presented his legal analysis. In his book The Types of Legitimate Domination, he divides the ideal types of authority into several kinds. One of them is legal-rational. In this power, submission occurs because of the rules and people who occupy energy.

Emile Durkheim stated that there are two types of law in society: repressive and restitutive. Repressive laws prescribe sanctions and are usually easy to find in a community of mechanical solidarity. The law that applies in an organic solidarity society is usually a surrogate.

Sociology of Law in America

American sociologists began to develop socio-legal theory in the 1950s. Unfortunately, most sociologists avoid law as a social phenomenon. In the late 1950s, legal sociology began to be discussed and developed because of its uniqueness and usefulness.

In the early 1960s, legal sociologist William M. Evan published Law and Sociology: Exploratory Essays (1962). This book, which eight scholars compiled, is a forum for sociologists and legal scholars to discuss views on law and society. That same year, Davis and colleagues published Society and the Law: New Meanings for Old Professions (1962). The Law and Society Association was founded in 1964, as was their journal, Law and Society Review.

Several publications in 1968 made the sociology of law more visible to more people. Some of these publications are:

  • Philip Selznick, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, “The Sociology of Law”.
  • Norms and Actions: National Report on the Sociology of Law, Renato Treves and JF Glastra Van Loon.
  • Law and Society: A Sociological Perspective Edwin M. Schur.

In the 1970s, legal sociologist Donald Black argued that a “pure” sociology of law should be included in a scientific analysis of legal life. The goal is to develop a general legal theory to predict and explain all legal behavior. Thus, for Donald Black, the sociology of law becomes a conceptual, objective, and scientific study free from values, morality, and politics.

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Black criticizes legal sociologists who seek to influence public policy. According to him, this sociologist confuses the practice of scientific research with the reform of the legal order and ideology.

Philippe Nonet rejected Black thought in 1976. He pushed the sociology of law in a more normative direction, closer to morality.

In the 1980s, a new movement was born: critical jurisprudence. Critical jurisprudence aims to criticize liberal jurisprudence. According to them, liberal doctrine is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.

The Conduct of Law by Donald Black is essential to know when one studies the history of the sociology of law.

Donald Black’s Legal Behavior book has been translated into Indonesian so students and scholars can read it.

Rita J. Simon and James R. Lynch trace the evolution of the sociology of law. In their article “The Sociology of Law: Where We Have and Where We Might Be Going” (1989), they convey two things about the sociology of law. First, those who focus on grand theory. This sociologist tries to explain the phenomenon of legal sociology broadly. In their view, no general idea of social law has been published since Donald Black’s The Behavior of Law (1976). Another consequence of this conclusion is that legal sociology cannot conduct comparative research.

History of Legal Sociology and Its Development

Looking back in history, the sociology of law was a discriminatory period; law is not understood as part of a social phenomenon, so it cannot be studied sociologically either. But over time, people began to see the importance of creating a sociology of law through the discussions and efforts of writers.

From these historical records of the sociology of law, we can see that the sociology of law is an up-and-coming field of sociological research. Besides being able to theorize about the workings of law in human society, sociology researchers have also begun to improve the accuracy of their theory through comparative studies conducted in non-Western countries.

Students may have various theories and concepts to explain and predict the interactions between laws, individuals, groups, organizations, and global society in the coming decades.

Definition of Legal Sociology

The history of the introduction of legal sociology was first coined by Anzilotti, an Italian legal sociologist, in 1882. Legal sociology emerged mainly from the ideas of legal philosophers, science, and sociology. In an increasingly modern era and the complexity of interpersonal relations, the sociology of law is also developing rapidly. This information aims to explain the existing positive regularities, i.e., changes in content and form according to time and place, with the support of social factors.

Legal sociology (or social legal studies) is often described as a subdiscipline of sociology or as an interdisciplinary approach to legal research. Some experts consider legal sociology as a derivative of the field of sociology. Still, some consider this science a research area between law and sociology.

Several other experts do not classify this department as a subsection of sociology or a branch of law. Still, it is part of investigating its position within the broader social science tradition. Thus, without reference to mainstream sociology, the field can be described as “the overall systematic, theory-based, empirical study of law or the perspective of social experience or social practice in the field.” The sociology of law is used to establish law and justice as fundamental institutions in the basic structure of society, which deal with “political and economic interests, culture and the normative order of society and create and maintain interdependence, but at the same time position themselves as a source of agreement, coercion, and control.” social.”.

Is the sociology of law defined as a subdiscipline of sociology? However, legal or independent research should draw on scholarly practices such as intellectual traditions, methods, and theories of mainstream sociology and minor social sciences such as social anthropology, political science, social policy, criminology, and psychology; as such, it reflects the use of social theory and the social scientific method in the study of law, legal institutions, and legal behavior.

Legal sociology includes various approaches to studying law in a society that empirically examines and articulates the interaction between law, legal institutions, non-legal institutions, and social factors. The field of study of social law includes the social development of legal institutions, forms of social control, legal regulations, the mutual influence of legal culture, the social structure of legal issues, the legal profession, and the relationship between law and social change.

Legal sociology also has a foundation related to research in other fields, such as comparative law, critical jurisprudence, legal theory, law and economics, and law and literature. The object of study in the sociology of law is both the history of the law and justice movement as well as the current structure, for example, in the field of law, which focuses on institutional issues offered by socio-political situations in interdisciplinary fields such as criminology, which analyzes the economic efficiency and social impact of standard norms. Law.

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Legal sociology is a science that studies the relationship between law and other social phenomena empirically and analytically. To facilitate legal duties, knowledge or social sciences help fulfill legal responsibilities. Sociology is different from jurisprudence; the sociology of law does not judge law. In other words, legal sociology has a legal approach from the point of view of objectivity and tries to explain the legal phenomena that occur.

The sociology of law analyzes the function of law in society. The characteristics of legal sociology provide explanations related to the legal practices of law enforcement agencies and communities. Legal sociology also examines these practices within each legal function by distinguishing these practices into legislation, law enforcement, and courts.

Scope of Legal Sociology

  • The social foundation of law, such as Indonesian National Law, whose social foundation is Pancasila, has the nature of cooperation, reflection, and kinship.
  • The influence of law on other social phenomena, such as investment law for economic phenomena, election law for political phenomena, copyright law for cultural phenomena, higher education law for educational phenomena, etc.

The definition and scope of legal sociology, according to some experts, are as follows:

  • Soerjono Soekanto

Sociology of law is a department that analyzes or examines analytically and empirically the relationship between law and other phenomena.

  • Satjipto Rahardjo

Sociology of law (legal sociology) is legal information about patterns of human behavior in a social context.

  • R. Otje Salman

Legal sociology is a science that studies the relationship between law and other social phenomena empirically and analytically.

  • HLA Hart

HLA Hart does not define the sociology of law. However, his description of law has a sociological aspect. Hart revealed that the concept of law contains an element of power that focuses on certain obligations in legal phenomena that appear in society. According to Hart, the essence of legal order lies in the unity of the basic rules (primary rules) and additional rules (secondary rules). The main rules are informal rules regarding the duties of community members, which aim to meet the needs of community life, while additional regulations consist of:

  • Recognition rules, that is, rules that describe the principal restrictions required, based on hierarchical order,
  • Change rules, namely rules that legitimize the existence of new basic rules.
  • Sanction rules authorize individuals to impose legal sanctions on certain events when society violates a fundamental law.

Thus, it becomes increasingly clear that the scope, object, or purpose of the sociology of law includes: First, the pattern of behavior of community members. The extent to which laws shape behavior or what types of behavior can shape laws.

In other words, what legal instruments are most effective in shaping people’s behavior patterns, or conversely, what behavior patterns can shape law? Second, what forces can shape, propagate, or undermine legal behavior? Third is the relationship between legal and socio-cultural changes (Soerjono Soekanto, 1994: 10-11). The law seeks to regulate human behavior, but to create practical guidelines for human behavior requires a prior understanding of human life itself, and to implement this understanding, the field of law requires the assistance of sociology.

Through the description above, we can finally briefly state that the scope of legal sociology is Patterns of community behavior, including the same ways of functioning and living together in society.


This is a brief discussion of the explanation of the sociology of law based on history and its scope. The debate this time does not only discuss the definition of the sociology of law but also its history and scope, which makes us better understand what background makes the sociology of law the primary basis in regulating the social life of humanity.

Thus, a review of the notion of the sociology of law. For Sinaumed who want to learn all about the meaning of the sociology of law and knowledge related to other sociology, you can visit to get related books.
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