Law and Social Change - LAWS5700

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Mo Afshary checkmark-circle


This module investigates the relationship between law and social change, and explores the political, economic and social dynamics that affect this relationship over time. The module will consider questions such as:

• Why is the law a terrain of social struggle?
• How does the law respond and/or contribute to social change?
• How do the values or worldviews that the law incorporates affect the legal advancement of social change?
• How does the character of the law change in relation to different political, economic and social contexts?
• What are the obstacles and limitations to the law contributing to and creating social change? How is the context in which the law operates
important in this analysis?
• How can we engage with the law to pursue change towards social justice?

The first part of the module examines the relationship between law and social change as addressed by key classical and contemporary social theorists. This exploration is then extended with an analysis of how and to what extent social movements can affect legal reform and eventually contribute to social change. The second part of the module investigates a number of concepts and areas in relation to which the approaches and ideas explored in the previous part can be applied, questioned, reframed or expanded. These concepts and areas are morality, democracy, globalisation, rights and citizenship, and the role of legal professions in social change.


Contact hours

Total study hours: 150
Contact hours: 20
Private study hours: 130


All single and joint honours Law programmes

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Research Essay (6000 words) (100%)

Reassessment methods

Reassessment instrument: 100% project

Indicative reading

• S. L. Roach Anleu, 'Law and Social Change', Sage; 2nd Ed; 2010
• R. Mawani, 'Law and Colonialism: Legacies and Lineages' (chapter 27) in A. Sarat and P. Ewick (eds.) 'The Handbook of Law and Society', Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
• S. L. Cummings, 'Empirical Studies of Law and Social Change: What is the Field? What are the Questions?', Wis. L. Rev. 171, 2013.
• S. Falk Moore, 'Law and Social Change: The Semi-Autonomous Social Field as an Appropriate Subject of Study', Law and Society Review 7(1), 1972.
• P. Fitzpatrick, ‘Being Social in Socio-Legal Studies’ 22(1), Journal of Law and Society, 1995.
• S. M. Sterett, ‘What is Law and Society? Definitional Disputes’ (chapter 1) in A. Sarat and P. Ewick (eds.), ‘The Handbook of Law and Society’, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.
• B. Z. Tamanaha, ‘A General Jurisprudence of Law and Society’, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
• A. Sen, ‘What is the Role of Legal and Judicial Reform in The Development Process?’, World Bank Legal Conference, Washington DC, 5 June 2000
• B. Z. Tamanaha, ‘Law and Society’ in Dennis Patterson (ed.) ‘A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory’, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
• M. Travers, ‘Introduction’ in Understanding Law and Society’, London: Routledge, 2010.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Employ a range of theoretical approaches to understanding law, morality, and social change, by exploring diverse perspectives, and
selected case studies.
2. Demonstrate independent, critical thinking on the history, and social and political character of legal change.
3. Reflect upon and analyse the moral and ethical content and impact of law as it impacts on social change.
4. Demonstrate advanced research and writing skills
5. Engage in a critical discussion of the nature, function and effects of law as it has been, is, ought to and/or might be expressed in the
bringing about of social change
6. Undertake explorations, demonstrations, critical evaluations and engagements in the context of moral discourse, social struggle, conflict
resolution and social integration
7. Demonstrate an awareness of the economic, political and/or social implications of legal forms and remedies in the pursuit of social

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Devise and sustain an argument and present relevant knowledge and understanding in the form of reasoned argument.
2. Carry out further research from a variety of sources including scholarly reviews and primary sources to inform a sustained and detailed
3. Identify and evaluate legal and policy problems according to their historical, political and legal context.
4. Analyse critically detailed conceptual current and historical material, and recognize and comment on the different positions that are taken
in the literature surveyed.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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