Dalhousie University

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology



Prof.: Dr. Julian Hermida

Course number: SOSA 3285

Teaching hours: Thursdays 18.05-20.55

Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 to 1.30 pm and Tuesdays 6.15 to 6.45 pm, or by appointment.

Office: Room 2131 (FASS Building)

Tel.: 494-6278






This course is designed as a sociological examination of law both as a mechanism of social regulation and as a field of knowledge. It explores classical and contemporary theoretical contributions to Sociology of Law. Some specific issues to be analyzed include law and social control, law and social change, social reality of the law, the profession and practice of law, violence against women, and the influence of race, gender, and social status in the outcome of legal decisions.






        Knowledge is a constantly evolving process, which can be constructed personally and collectively.

        From an individual perspective, knowledge is personal, socially and historically contextualized, and dependent on psychological variables.

        From the class perspective, knowledge is a collective construction, where all participants can make their contribution.

        In the process of constructing knowledge, there is a dialectic relationship between action and reflection, where one feeds the other and vice versa.

        Successful learning is based on a personal involvement of students in their own learning.

        The learning environment, including the teaching methods, the teacherís attitude, and the class atmosphere, among other factors, is determinative of the studentsí approach to learning, as well as, the learning outcomes.

        The role of the teacher is that of a facilitator and tutor rather than a lecturer.

        Student peers are a powerful source of learning.

        Evaluation is conceived mainly as formative.




This course is conceived so that students can:


1.      Understand sociological examinations of law both as a mechanism of social regulation and as a field of knowledge.

2.      Recognize and understand the principal schools of thought in sociology and the law.

a.       Reconsider the role of formal legal regulation in relation to civil society. 

b.      Appreciate and employ the formal language and discourse of socio-legal studies.

3.      Be aware of the influence of race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, and social class on the outcome of justice institutions.

4.      Apply sociolegal theories to a myriad of contemporary justice problems.

a.       Use knowledge on sociolegal theories to analyze contemporary problems of Canadian society.

b.      Critically reflect on media reports and cultural products concerning justice issues.

5.      Demonstrate an understanding of how contemporary justice institutions operate.

a.       Relate principles of justice, fairness, individual initiative, ethics, and legitimacy to our system of law.





Deploy a range of advanced transferable skills, such as, oral and written communication skills, the accurate exposition of complex arguments and sets of research findings and the critical evaluation of competing explanations or complex arguments relating to some culturally sensitive topics.




Classroom activities will be designed to encourage students to play an active role in the construction of their own knowledge and in the design of their own learning strategies.

We will combine traditional lectures with other active teaching methodologies, such as group discussions, cooperative group solving problems, analysis of video scenes, debates, and construction of web sites. Class participation is a fundamental aspect of this course. Students will be encouraged to actively take part in all group activities and to give an oral group presentation. Students will also be assigned joint research projects so that they will engage in collaborative learning experiences outside the classroom. Students will be expected to interact with media resources, such as, web sites, videos, DVDs, etc. In line with the postulates of Writing Across the Curriculum, writing will be integrated in all class assignments.





Evaluation is conceived mainly as formative and feedback will be provided all throughout the course. While strictly respecting University, Faculty and Department standards and policies, reasonable efforts will be made to include shared evaluation practices, i.e., a process where students have an active role in their own evaluation.


The evaluation of the studentsí achievement of the objectives of the course will be based on four main components: two exams, an oral presentation, and class participation/portfolio. The first exam accounts for 30% of the final grade while the second one accounts for 20%. The oral presentation accounts for 30% of the final grade and class participation/portfolio accounts for 20%.


Successful attainment of objectives depends mainly on class attendance and active class participation.


ORAL PRESENTATION: Formative Unconventional Non-Powerpoint presentation


The oral presentation is an essential part of the course. Students will select a topic from a list of options distributed on the first class. Students will conduct the presentations in groups made up of 4 or 5 students each.


Students are expected to research about the topic and to read from several sources for the presentation.


Students are strongly encouraged Ėbut not obliged to- follow this format and structure. First, there should be a brief (15í or less) introduction to the topic. Students will be encouraged to choose a focus and an angle through which they can deal with the selected topic, i.e., they will be expected to select an aspect of the problem, preferably a debatable, unresolved or topical one, and analyze it through their own -rather than other's- perspective. Students are strongly discouraged to use Powerpoint slides and to read from slides or notes. Second, students should plan an activity (30í or less) so that those not presenting can actively participate. Activities should be original, entertaining, and formative. They should principally let students apply the topic presented to different situations. There should be a conclusion and time for questions or comments (15í or less). Additionally, students will have to select an article Ėpreferably one available electronically- a web site, create notes or find another source of information for the rest of the students to read about the topic. The selected source of information must treat the topic comprehensively.


The oral presentation requires extensive preparation throughout the term. During the preparation of the presentation, students are welcome to meet with the professor for consultation, suggestions and feedback on the evolution of the presentation. Students will have to pass in an outline of the presentation to the professor at least one week prior to the presentation. The outline will be discussed and the professor will provide feedback and further guidelines. Students are expected to hand in a revised version of the presentation. During the presentation, the professorís role will be limited to listening passively. The rest of the class must actively participate in the presentation as an active audience. The professor will provide feedback in writing after the presentation is over.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: a positive response must be given to the following questions in order to approve the presentation. The criteria are formulated in the form of questions which the teacher will ask with respect to each presentation. All these criteria have the same value.


1.      Does the presentation deal with the assigned topic? Does the presentation show an understanding of topic dealt with? Does the presentation show a clear, coherent, and comprehensive treatment of the selected topic? Has the presentation followed the required formalities?

2.      Does the presentation integrate knowledge acquired throughout the course? Is there an effective and original integration of knowledge acquired throughout the course?

3.      Is there a critical and original personal assessment of the topic presented?

4.      Does the presentation include an activity for the audience? Is the activity original, entertaining, and formative? Has the activity engaged the active participation of the audience or have the students engaged the audience throughout the presentation? Does the activity permit students to apply the concepts, theories or other issues dealt with in the presentation?

5.      Have the students selected an adequate article, a web site or another source of information that comprehensively deals with the topic of the presentation for the other students?





The exams will be in the form of essays where students will have to apply the knowledge gained in the course rather than to recite the material. Students will discuss and propose good-faith questions for each of the exams based on the topics dealt with in the course. If the questions have a general consensus they will be part of a test bank. The exams will only contain questions that have been included in the test bank.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: The evaluation criteria will be given to the students once the test bank has been completed. The value of each evaluation criterion will also be given once the test bank for each exam is completed. In general, the evaluation criteria will be similar to the following one:


1.      Did you answer the question comprehensively? Are all relevant problems discussed? Was the answer readable and well organized? Did you make connections between issues discussed in your answer? Did your answer show an understanding of the topic dealt with?

2.      Did your answer discuss problems by reference to theoretical issues learned during the course? Did your answer show an understanding of the appropriate readings or class discussions? Did your answer show an understanding of the discussions and issues arisen in class? Did your answer make reference to class discussions, activities, and readings?

3.      Is there a critical personal assessment of the topic discussed? Does the personal assessment show some originality?





Students are expected to actively participate in every class with a positive attitude and to treat their classmates and instructor with respect. Their participation must make a positive impact on the class activities. Students are expected to be prepared for every class. Class attendance is a prerequisite to obtain the corresponding percentage of the grade under the class participation category.


Students are expected to create a portfolio to record all class assignments. One of the class activities will include the writing of an essay. Each portfolio will include, at least, the following materials: (i) a title page and a table of contents; (ii) all class activities, including one minute papers, small group activities and proposals for the test banks made in class; and (iii) the essay. The deadline to hand in the portfolio is March 28, 2006 in class.


Passing requirements and scale of evaluation: a positive response must be given to the following questions in order to obtain the maximum grade within this evaluation component. The criteria are formulated in the form of questions which the teacher will ask with respect to each studentís participation and portfolio. All these criteria have the same value.


  1. Does the student actively participate in every class?
  2. Does the student show a positive attitude toward his or her classmates, the instructor, and the activities?
  3. Is the student prepared for every class? 
  4. Does the student volunteer to lead activities, debates or debriefs?
  5. Is the portfolio complete? Does it contain all activities made in class and all required components?
  6. Is there evidence that each of the activities was completed when discussed in class? Does the portfolio evidence the studentís active engagement with the activities?
  7. Are the responses to the activities creative, original, and intellectually challenging?


Grading system


A+: 95-100†††† B+: 80-84†††††† C+: 65-69†††† D: 50-54

A:†† 90-94†††††† B:75-79††††††††† C:60-64††††† F: 0-49†††

A-:85-89†††††† B-: 70-74††††††† C-:55-59






The curriculum is flexible and is open to suggestions from students. We can examine any sociolegal issue of interest to most students, even if it is not listed here. The following is a sample of issues which we will most probably be discussing. Note that we may not examine every single topic listed here.



q       Introduction to the study of sociology of law

q       Functions of law

q       Max Weber

q       Weberís notion of law

q       Forms of law and legal thought.

q       Weber on the Contract and the Juridic Subject

q       Emile Durkheim

q       Evolution of society and social solidarity

q       Types of laws: repressive and restitutive (negative and positive)

q       The abnormal forms. Contract

q       Property. Sacred property

q       Marx and Law and Capitalism

q       Modes of production and the role of law

q       Legal education

q       The Courtroom workgroup

q       Sociolegal theories

q       Violence against women

q       Pornography

q       Intellectual property

q       Influence of race, gender, and social status in the outcome of legal decisions.




This is a tentative calendar of readings and class activities. If class discussions or class activities take longer than originally estimated because everybody gets involved, they will not be cut short to follow this schedule of readings. They will simply be put off for the following class or rescheduled. Additionally, the teacher may substitute new topics for some of the ones included in this schedule, particularly if most students show an interest for some topics not planned to be covered. Changes to this schedule, including changes of midterm dates, will be announced in class and posted on the course website. Although reference is made to pages and chapters from the recommended textbooks included in the course reader, students can read these topics from any other Sociology of Law book.







January 5 and 12

  • Concepts of law: The social context of Law.
  • Sociology of Law.
  • Types and functions of law.
  • Max Weber: The Sociology of Law. Typologies of Law


  • Concepts of law: The social context of Law by Sheryl J. Grana and Jane C. Ollenburger, pages 14 to 17.
  • Sociology of Law. Types and functions of Law: Law and Society by Steven Vago and Adie Nelson, pages 1 to 23.
  • Defining Law: Alex Wellington and Allan Greenbaun, pages 8 to 9.
  • Max Weber: The Sociology of Law by Brian Burtch pages 36 to 41


January 19

  • Legal Education
  • The Courtroom workgroup††


  • Legal Education: Law and Society by Steven Vago and Adie Nelson, pages 328 to 341.
  • Legal Education: Canadian Law: An introduction by Neil Boyd, pages 171 to 179.
  • The Courtroom workgroup: The Sociology of Law by Brian Burtch, pages 149 to 165.††


January 26

  • Sociolegal theories


  • Sociolegal theories: An introduction by Neil Boyd, pages 3 to 29.


February 2

        Marx and Durkheim

        The Sociology of Law by Brian Burtch, pages 27 to 35 41 to 51.

February 9



February 16

Studentsí presentations

Articles to be selected by students giving the presentations.

March 2

Studentsí presentations

Articles to be selected by students giving the presentations.

March 9


Studentsí presentations

Articles to be selected by students giving the presentations.

March 16

  • Studentsí presentations


  • Violence against women.
  • Articles to be selected by students giving the presentations.


  • Violence against women: Julian Hermida, class notes.

March 23




March 30







        Julian Hermida and students, Compilation of texts and sources on Sociology of Law. The textbook for the course will be the result of a collective enterprise between the professor and the students, which will be completed over the course. As part of the presentations, students will have to select an article, a chapter of a book, a web site or another source of information for the rest of the students to read about the presented topic.


        The professor will meet regularly with the students in his office for feedback, supervision of projects, and exchange of ideas.


        A web site for the course is available at Students will be able to consult the course outline, test banks, class notes, and other useful information. All important announcements, such as exam dates, presentation dates, reading assignments, and deadlines are given in class and will not appear on the web site.





None of the activities imply interviewing or interacting with human beings outside the classroom. However, if students want to interview or interact with people for any of these activities they must contact the teacher well in advance to comply with ethics requirements.







In these large classes, it is sometimes difficult to get to know each and every one of my students. So, I would like to meet personally with as many of you as possible during the term. Please come see me during my office hours. I am available not only for class help but also for other academic-related issues, such as writing letters of reference or helping with prospective graduate studies. I want to be available to answer questions for all students. So in addition to regular office hours and seeing me by appointment, I will every so often end class early, and invite students who have questions to meet with me right then and there. Also note that if access to the second floor is barred after 5 PM, please call me from downstairs and I will go down and let you in.




Dalhousie University now subscribes to, a computer based service which checks for originality in submitted papers. Any paper submitted by a student at Dalhousie University may be checked for originality to confirm that the student has not plagiarized from other sources. Plagiarism is considered a serious academic offence which may lead to loss of credit, suspension or expulsion from the University, or even the revocation of a degree. It is essential that there be correct attribution of authorities from which facts and opinions have been derived. At Dalhousie there are University Regulations which deal with plagiarism and, prior to submitting any paper in a course, students should read the Policy on Intellectual Honesty contained in the Calendar or on the Dalhousie web site at: - 12.

The Senate has affirmed the right of any instructor to require that student papers be submitted in both written and computer readable format, and to submit any paper to a check such as that performed by As a student in this class, you are to keep an electronic copy of any paper you submit, and the course instructor may require you to submit that electronic copy on demand. Copies of student papers checked by this process will be retained by




There are various university polices and procedures regarding university student disability issues. Student Accessibility Services handles the process of identifying students with disabilities, the types of accommodations appropriate for each student, and helps provide those accommodations. Students with disabilities should register as quickly as possible at Student Accessibility Services if they want to receive academic accommodations.To do so, students may phone 494-2836, e-mail <>, or drop in at the Killam, G28. For more information, consult the SAS website at