j  leggett

Research Module






LAW & SOCIETY (a handbook)

What will you learn?



Global & Environmental Studies Research Consortium


What are the (ethical) responsibilities of the lawyer, legal scholar, and legal movement organizers?


When anyone begins to explain the patterns of decision-making, the behaviors of individuals and groups, or the complicated distribution of power of resources and institutions, they are always bound to the methods they use from the beginning of the inquiry. Thus when a political scientist Laswell (1950) defines POLITICS as “who gets what, when, how” he is bound to a theory that defines the social relations between humans as a game with winners and losers.

It is of the upmost importance that I emphasize that there exists much disagreement to the Laswell framework and there is also much agreement. For example, a poltiical theorist, Hannah Arendt, contests this definition as do others within the field of study I utilize most often, Law and Society. While it appears that most classical (or traditional) poltiical scientists maintain the Laswell framework and focus on institutions of power like Congress, the Executive, Administration of Law, Bureaucracy, the Supreme Court, and local legislatures. In this way the study of POLITICS is either a study of “moves needed to win” within an institution using instruments of power that go along with those institutions or POLITICS is the resistance to those “moves” and searching for strategies like amassing public opinion, grassroots organizing, media studies, and so on.

Silbey (2002), and anthropologist, positions Law and Society research as a movement whereby scholars turned away from the study of power as winning a game and maintaining this power over others and instead turned toward how the situation could be changed or how people resist and strategize against domination. (For a history click here and here).

To think of methods of inquiry (research) as a movement, one begins to consider the practical and philosophical consequences of such a beginning. (Click here for flashcards).


Methods within an Educational Setting:

I asked a former student, as we were conducting a long-term research study together about feminist legal theory, women’s rights, social change, and law and society as a field, the following: should we be activists?

Our Tools in Political Science – Law and Society Research

1. Identify a socio-political problem: is there an injustice you are concerned about? What is your inquiry about politics – the situation that involves a political solution through the institutions of government and law – using the instruments of government law – or confronting an existing myth or ideology about law and government?

2. List and examine the actors involved in the maintainance of power over others, the struggle for power through resistance or avoidance of law and government, or those that seem to exist outside law and government.

3. Propose some hypothesis or assumption that might explain this happening/struggle/ or structural system.

4. Reflection on what you have gathered so far and note any questions or comments you might have; consider discussing with me or another student.

5. Conduct a literature review using theories and the construction of knowledge about your inquiry.

6. Apply the literature review to your problem. What have you learned? What gaps are there in the literature? Do you still have doubts or questions?

7. Reflect again on this process of research and consider modifying your inquiry question to be more specific on an aspect that was raised during your project.



Measuring our Progress : Teaching and Learning

P-PRIM: Most students believe the legal system is a simplistic “other” maintained for a specific purpose by a group of unknown actors. This monolith is seen as a source and administrator of justice and is viewed as unrelated to economics, legislatures, independent actors and groups, and natural events. Most view the courts as a source of fairness where individuals are mostly treated the same with exceptions being based on bias or prejudice.

Social Construction (of Technology) for Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement, Migration, and Eco-Politics

What is Social Construction of Technology
a. Social Construction Theory
b. PHC and Bateson (also Mannheim, King, and so on)
c. Application
d. Technology as Social Construct (lib ed)

What is Social Construction of Technology for Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement
a. Civic Learning Definition
b. Democratic Engagement Definition
c. Applied: Digital + Critical Participatory Action Research (Fine) (Mayorga)
d. Toward a Utopia (Musil, BPS, Augstine, King, )

What is Social Construction for Migration
a. Education for Social Change: Global Citizens: Generative Diplomacy
b. Latour – Modes of Existence
c. Geography (Carmalt)

What is Social Construction for Eco-Politics
a. Political Ecology
a. Forsyth
b. Mayan Cosmovision
c. My Photo-Essays
d. Latour – Down to Earth

Problems to Encounter: A Field of Social Relations
a. Foucault
b. Lukes (Power, Politics)

The Complexity of Ai as Decision-Maker (rationality)

a. Bateson

b. Levi (game theory)


a. https://www.freemathhelp.com/xy-axis.html

b. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclidean_geometry


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