Studying Law, Economy, and Society: A Short History of Socio-Legal Thinking

Sabine Frerichs

University of Helsinki

March 15, 2012

Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19

This paper gives an overview of the development of socio-legal thinking in the last two centuries. It considers scholarship at the intersection of law, economy, and society and is thus equally interested in the fields of “economy and society”, “law and society”, and “law and economy” along with the respective sub-disciplines of economic sociology, legal sociology, and law and economics. The main argument is that socio-legal scholarship has followed a pattern of three generations, or successive paradigms, which are specified as “historicism”, “realism”, and “constructivism”. In outlining these developments, the paper aims to further the economic sociology of law, which reconnects law, economy, and society from a sociological point of view.

The paper first introduces the pattern of the three generations and specifies that pattern with regard to economic sociology, legal sociology, and social theory. Furthermore, the paper links the pattern to more general developments in the social-scientific field and condenses it in terms of “law in”, “law and”, and “law as” approaches. The remainder of the paper explores the three generations of socio-legal thinking in separate chapters, each starting with a view on the general background. The historicist paradigm is exemplified by historical jurisprudence, historical economics (including “old” institutional economics) and classical historical sociology (Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Tönnies). Realist scholarship is exemplified by legal realism (Holmes, Pound, Llewellyn), the “law and economics” (Posner) and the “law and society” (Friedman) movements. Constructivist scholarship is illustrated by recent scholarship in the economic sociology of law and the social theory of law (Luhmann, Habermas, Bourdieu).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 81

Keywords: law, economy, society, sociology, history

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Date posted: March 17, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Frerichs, Sabine, Studying Law, Economy, and Society: A Short History of Socio-Legal Thinking (March 15, 2012). Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2022891 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2022891

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Sabine Frerichs (Contact Author)
University of Helsinki ( email )
University of Helsinki
Helsinki, AL FIN-00014
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