'Law &' Meets 'Law As': The Handbook of Law and Society
10 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2016
Date Written: October 1, 2016
How is a discipline built? More specifically, how does a scholarly movement based on the interdisciplinary study of law build and share knowledge and yet retain an identity of its own?
In The Handbook of Law and Society, editors Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick have collected twenty-eight essays to describe the elephant we know as the “Law and Society movement.” Published fifty years after the creation of the Law and Society Association (LSA) in 1964, the Handbook looks back, marks the “emerging maturity” of the movement, and forecasts its future. Unlike the elephant being described by blind observers who touch only its front or its back, the Law and Society movement is captured here by editors and authors familiar with its whole, present and past.
As the Handbook describes it, the movement became a collective body whose work could be assessed through the conferences, workshops, and other activities of the LSA and the articles published in the Law & Society Review. Initially, the movement brought together sociologists and law professors who described their purposes neutrally, as academic rather than political. The goal of the LSA, according to its first president, was to bring about “more rigorous and formal interdisciplinary training” in law and sociology. The purpose of the Review was to respond to “a growing need on the part of social scientists and lawyers for a forum in which to carry on an interdisciplinary dialogue.” Similar to the LSA, the Legal Writing Institute was established (in 1984) to foster teaching and scholarship in order to improve legal communication. Like the Review, the disciplinary journals in our field responded to the need to build and disseminate the discipline’s knowledge base. Hearing echoes in these origin stories, I read the Handbook with a specific purpose in mind: How might the evolution of these related and relatively new scholarly fields inform one another?
Keywords: legal writing, law and society
JEL Classification: Y3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation