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The University of Southampton

LAWS3083 Law and Society

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The Law and Society module aims to provide you with a knowledge and understanding of the interrelationships between law and other institutions and practices in society, particularly modern society, and to encourage a critical understanding both of what law does in society and what other elements of society do to law through an exploration of the major historical and contemporary works in this field.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • describe the distinctive character of modern societies, their institutions, structures and practices
  • describe and explain the changing forms and functions of law in modern society
  • explain the major historical and contemporary social theories of law which seek to interpret these developments
  • describe the ways in which these theoretical approaches may be used to explore a contemporary socio-legal problem
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate critical awareness of the significance of social theory to the understanding of law as a social phenomenon
  • analyse the social, ethical and historical dimensions of modern legality and modern legal practice
  • evaluate the fundamental claims and concepts of key socio-legal texts with important implications for the study of law and legal topics
  • identify and assess the theoretical and methodological underpinnings that distinguish these approaches as a mode of research in law
  • critically appraise the potentials and the limitations of those theoretical applications when considered in the light of a particular contemporary socio-legal problem and/or case study
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse, interpret and evaluate a wide variety of complex written
  • apply theoretical knowledge effectively
  • construct and defend a reasoned and structured argument
  • conduct a piece of independent research on a contemporary topic and present the results of that research in a sustained critical analysis


The module beigins with a discussion of certain characteristic features of legal institutions and legal discourse in the modern period. The concept of ‘modernity" and its component features (capitalism, industrialism, individualism, state institutions, rationality, secularism) forms the background for the first half of the module. The work of Marx, Weber and others will be examined in some detail, and their analyses of law's characteristics explicated and criticised. The module then addresses more recent critical engagements, which argue that the character of modern law - and modern society – has changed; therefore the classic descriptions and understandings of law are now no longer appropriate. Engaging critically with some of these alternative understandings, the question of the nature and role of law in contemporary society is the fundamental issue to be addressed.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include Seminars/Lectures (Weekly): The module is taught by a series of weekly two-hour seminars/lectures, which provide you with an overview of each substantive topic, highlighting key issues. The overriding emphasis is on the development of critical reflection and analysis through consideration of major themes and topics. The seminar series is supported with a range of ‘handouts’ (made available electronically via the module’Blackboard pages), which outline critical issues, required reading and questions and guidance for further study. You are also encouraged to explore a wide range of legal and non-legal resources as a starting point for your own research from a variety of different legal, moral, political and social perspectives. Learning activities include • Directed Reading (as per distributed reading lists) • Preparing and writing formative coursework, with critical self-reflection on your own performance throughout this process. • Preparation for seminars and oral contributions to class discussion which will give you the opportunity to communicate reasoned arguments effectively. • Participating in class discussion.

Preparation for scheduled sessions68
Wider reading or practice10
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list






MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  ( words) 100%


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the recommended text(s) as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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