Debating Sociological Jurisprudence

15 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2020 Last revised: 2 Mar 2021

See all articles by Roger Cotterrell

Roger Cotterrell

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

Date Written: June 1, 2019


This symposium contribution outlines main themes of Sociological Jurisprudence: Juristic Thought and Social Inquiry (Cotterrell 2018) and answers criticisms of the book’s claims about (i) the nature of jurisprudence and legal philosophy, (ii) the role of the jurist, (iii) jurisprudence’s dependence on philosophy and social science, and (iv) the place of social science in legal scholarship.
The paper presents a conception of sociological jurisprudence necessarily distanced from the pioneer approach of Roscoe Pound so as to reflect contemporary understandings of the nature of law, legal theory and social science. It treats jurisprudence as a project distinct from – though drawing resources from – contemporary legal philosophy and sociology of law.
Sociological jurisprudence (i) depends on systematic and sustained empirical study of socio-legal phenomena, (ii) uses provisional juristic models of ‘the legal’ but rejects ideas of ‘essential’ or universal characteristics of law, and (iii) serves basic (but often conflicting) legal values of justice, security and solidarity, which it interprets and balances in shifting socio-legal contexts.

Keywords: Sociological jurisprudence, legal philosophy, Radbruch, Durkheim, jurists, legal scholarship, legal values, sociology of law

Suggested Citation

Cotterrell, Roger, Debating Sociological Jurisprudence (June 1, 2019). Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 337/2020. Published in (2019) 32 Ratio Juris 521-8., Available at SSRN:

Roger Cotterrell (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law ( email )

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