Does the Law Recognize Legal Socialization?
Benjamin Justice and Tracey Meares, "Does the Law Recognize Legal Socialization?" Journal of Social Issues 2021; 77:462-483.
43 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2021
Date Written: January 16, 2021
Since its emergence as a coherent field of study a half century ago, legal socialization has moved to the forefront of conversations about legal reform in multiple fields. Amidst all this work, however, there is surprisingly little scholarship on an important, but understudied question: Does the law itself recognize legal socialization? Our concern here is with a specific project of law: whether and how it “recognizes” its own role in creating citizens. For this essay, we consider all fifty state constitutions, including all previous versions of these constitutions. Our analysis focuses on several specific areas where the text explicitly or implicitly addresses the law as a socializing agent. What we find is a diverse landscape of state law that ranges from silence to indirect and direct endorsement of legal socialization as a purpose of law, an obligation of the state, and a right of the individual citizen. Yet, we also find that these acknowledgements are complex and at times contradictory, reflecting deep fissures between the law’s commitments to democratic republicanism and its anti-democratic commitments to the maintenance of privilege and overt oppression. Knowing whether, and how, American law recognizes its need to legally socialize the citizenry toward democratic norms is a critical step for bridging the divide between legal socialization scholarship and social policy reform.
Keywords: legal socialization, state law, education, civics, citizenship, legal reform
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