Invitation to law and society

9 April 2017 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

In december I bought the book ‘Invitation to law and society’ by Kitty Calavita. The second edition of the book was just published. My colleague Barbara Oomen advised me to take a look at it; she was enthusiastic about it and she used it in her course ‘Law, Society, and Justice’. I soon discovered I was not so enthusiastic. First, I do not think it fits as a course book: there is a nice division of chapters, but there is hardly any focus in the chapters – many topic return in each chapter. Second, I do not like the overall picturing of the law as negative: law is subverted, is just an ideal without reality, is misused by the powerful, cannot bring about real social change etcetera. I agree, most of this is true. But there is not only a neo-Marxist and critical, but also a functionalist, consensus perspective to tell. Law is also always the expression of a certain sense of solidarity. Also gives people a certain idea of identity. Somehow law also tells the (yes: ideological, but no less true) story of who we think we are, or at least should be.

This is not to say I dislike the book. To the contrary, it is a good and interesting read. But if it is not for beginning students, who is it for? Not for colleagues in law and society, because they are already convinced of its relevance. Then, maybe for legal scholars, and for colleagues in the social sciences, who need this ‘invitation’?

Interesting quote, p 193: IMG_0184

I agree with Calavita. Therefore it is a pity that one truth is dominant in the book, that law mostly perpetuates inequality.

About Wibo van Rossum

assistent professor at legal theory Utrecht University School of Law

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