THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF LAW
Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought 101 (Political Science 218)
Law seems to be everywhere, ordering the most minute details of daily life while at the same time making life and death judgments. Law can be and is many things at once--majestic and ordinary, monstrous and merciful, concerned with morality and yet often righteously indifferent to moral argument. It is thus central and important in social life and, at the same time, elusive and mysterious. What law is and can be, as well as the nature of law's presence in society, is, however, more than a matter of moral maxims, philosophical aspirations, or adroitness in manipulating legal texts. Law's power and mystery is reflected in, and made possible by, its institutional arrangements and social organization.
Law is a complex and often cumbersome apparatus which makes itself present in concrete and visible ways. For this apparatus to work it must be able to translate words into deeds and rhetorical gestures into social practices. Yet law's social organization does more than translate, it makes its own ``law'' and, in so doing, insures that law speaks with many voices. The problems and possibilities of social organization mark the limits of law's capacity to make its many values work in the world, and they define the realities of legal justice. Thus legal thought is haunted by the specter of an impenetrable and unresponsive bureaucratic apparatus, or of an apparatus out of control. To understand the way that the specter works in legal thought as well as the nature of law's social organization we will examine the practices of police, lawyers, judges and those who administer law's complex bureaucratic apparatus. THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF LAW is a course in applied legal theory, a course more concerned with law's everyday practices than with its abstract promises.
The following books, marked with a (P) on the syllabus, are available at the Amherst Books:
George Fletcher, A Crime of Self Defense: Bernhard Goetz and The Law on Trial
John Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined
Gresham Sykes, The Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison
Austin Sarat, Mercy on Trial: What it Means to Stop an Execution
All other readings are available on line through the CMS Course Listings for our course.
There are several films included in this course. Those films are also available on line and should be viewed prior to the class in which they will be discussed.
I. WHEN LAW FAILS
A. Violent Acts/Legal Responses: What Constitutes Law’s Failure?
FILM: The Accused
B. The Limits of Legal Protection
C. Deadly Consequences: Private Justice, Revenge or Self-Defense?
FILM: Adam's Rib
George Fletcher, A Crime of Self Defense: Bernhard Goetz & The Law on Trial (P)
D. Responding to Law’s Failure: Toward a New Understanding of Rights
II. WHAT IS LAW?: DEFINITIONAL DEBATES AND REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES
A. On the Contested Nature of Law’s Relationship to Morality
John Austin, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, 18-37, 106-163, 164-183, 211-216 (P)
B. Interpretive Practices: Making Sense of Legal Texts
C. Law’s Violence
III. THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF LAW AND THE PROBLEM OF ORGANIZING LAW'S VIOLENCE
A. Policing and the Policing of Police
1. The Police and Their Environment
2. Controlling Police Conduct-I: Coercing Confessions
a. The Court’s Commands
b. Miranda in Retreat
c. Can Courts Control Police Practices?
3. Controlling Police Conduct: II: Lethal Force
(read Scalia and Stevens opinions)
IV. THE PLEASURES AND PROBLEMS PUNISHMENT
A. Justifications for and Limits on Punishment
(read Kennedy and Thomas opinions)
B. The Social Organization of Imprisonment: Life on the Inside
FILM: SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
Gresham Sykes, Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison, Introduction and pp. 1-134 (P)
C. What Happens When Law Fails?
V. DEALING IN DEATH: AT THE LIMITS OF LAW
FILM: Twelve Angry Men
A. The Problem of Discretion I: When the State Takes Life
B. The Problem of Discretion II: When the State Spares Life
Austin Sarat, Mercy On Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution (P)
C. Is/Should There Be a Future for Capital Punishment?: Overcoming Law’s Social Organization