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Jurisprudence and Legal Theory


Module description

In this module we introduce you to fundamental questions regarding the nature, role and importance (or lack) of law in our society. Rather than looking at one area of law in isolation, we look at the phenomenon of law as a whole and interrogate its existence, its history, its relationship to other aspects of our society and pose questions as to its functions.

We take a fundamentally ‘critical’ approach to law, asking perennial questions that have preoccupied jurists and political theories for centuries, such as:

  • What is the relationship between law and justice?
  • Is there an obligation to obey the law?
  • Is an immoral law still a law?

We also apply old and new theories to issues confronting us as citizens and lawyers in contemporary society.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have an understanding of:

Theories of justice

  • What is the relationship between law and justice? 
  • Is justice a concept that can be given meaning or is it just a shouting word?
  • What are chief examples of attempts to give body to the concept of justice regarding the distribution of scarce resources?

Marxism and law

  • What is a materialist theory of law?
  • Is the chief role of law the maintenance of the right to property?
  • What do you understand by the ideological role of law?

Feminist legal theories

  • Is law and the legal system inevitably patriarchal?
  • If so, should feminists engage with law in an attempt to reform it or should they reject law altogether?
  • What do you consider the chief tenets of ‘feminism’?

Law and literature

  • If law is maintained by more than force, what is the role of a society’s cultural products in maintaining or subverting the law?
  • Consider the role of law in cultural texts of your choice, analysing whether they affirm or undermine the claims made by the legal system.