Mind the Gap: The Place of Gap Studies in Sociolegal Scholarship
Posted: 31 Oct 2012
Date Written: December 2012
Arising in the late 1960s and early 1970s — in conjunction with the development of sociology of law and the Law and Society Association — gap studies dominated much of sociolegal scholarship for a time, providing multiple examples of the ways in which law on the books is inconsistent with law in action. These gaps, in turn, spurred calls for legal reform. By the 1980s, however, gap studies came in for criticism, not only for the presumption that law was purposively rational but also for scholars' beliefs that they could identify law's aims. To some, the findings were naïve or undertheorized. Nonetheless, gap studies have illuminated many legal practices and have helped to identify pathways by which law may have an impact. Even as sociolegal scholarship has become increasingly decentered from law, one still sees the tendrils of gap studies in research exploring discrepancies between expectations and actuality in law and legality.
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