The Legal Complex

Posted: 10 Jan 2012

See all articles by Lucien Karpik

Lucien Karpik

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Terence C. Halliday

American Bar Foundation

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2011


The concept of the legal complex is a new addition to the lexicon of sociology and sociolegal scholarship. As a concept, the legal complex emerged from a series of interdisciplinary collaborations and primary research on the politics of lawyers and judges across the world. The review introduces this new collective actor to the political stage and elaborates its defining elements, morphology, varieties of mobilization, and repertoires of action. This review argues for a complementary methodological strategy for investigation of the politics of the legal complex, the longue durée and événements. With respect to political liberalism, it shows the contexts and resources in which the legal complex thrives, with particular emphasis on civil society, information technology, the rise of constitutionalism, and international circumstances. The essay argues, however, that the explanatory reach of this concept can extend to any policymaking issues, national or supranational, that involve law, legal institutions, and legal actors. By adopting the logic of analysis developed in this review, not only do previously discrete areas of work on lawyers, judges, or prosecutors come into creative tension, but a lively politics of the legal complex will refine and extend theory across the landscape of law and society research.

Suggested Citation

Karpik, Lucien and Halliday, Terence C., The Legal Complex (December 2011). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 7, pp. 217-236, 2011, Available at SSRN: or

Lucien Karpik (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Terence C. Halliday

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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