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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

CRIM 3321: Sociology of Law

Students examine law from a sociological perspective, with particular attention to understanding major theories and empirical studies on various aspects of law and how law works in the real world, or what socio-legal scholars call "law in action." Topics include exploring law as a mode of social control, dispute resolution, social change, and how intersecting factors such as, race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ability shape the law and legal institutions.

Learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the emergence of socio-legal research and conceptualizations of law.
  • Evaluate media reports and cultural products/images concerning legal issues.
  • Identify and apply the theoretical foundations and historical development of law.
  • Explain how contemporary legal institutions operate.
  • Analyze selected past and current research issues of the sociology of law.
  • Discuss the changing nature and functions of law at the Canadian and the global level.
  • Explain the influence of intersecting factors such as, race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ability on the outcome of legal institutions.

Course topics

CRIM 3321: Sociology of Law includes the following 10 modules:

1. Introduction to Sociology of Law

  • Course Overview
  • Conceptualizations of Law
  • Types of Law
  • Functions/Dysfunction of Law

2. Legal Literacy

  • Awareness of Law and its Function
  • Role of Media in Shaping Awareness

3. Theoretical Perspectives

  • The European Pioneers
  • Classical Sociological Theories
  • Socio-legal theorists
  • Contemporary Law and Society Theorists
  • Current Intellectual Movements in Law

4. The Organization of Law

  • Dispute Categories
  • The Organization of Courts
  • Participants in Court Processes
  • The Flow of Litigation
  • Sentencing in Canada

5. Lawmaking

  • Perspectives on Lawmaking
  • Sources of Impetus for Law
  • Protest Activity and Social Movements
  • The Internet and Social Movements
  • Disabilities and the Law

6. Law and Social Control

  • Informal and Formal Social Controls
  • Social Control and the Family
  • Criminal Sanctions
  • Crimes Without Victims
  • Gender and the Law

7. Law and Dispute Resolution

  • Methods of Dispute Resolution
  • Youth and the Law

8. Law and Social Change

  • Social Changes as Causes of Legal Change
  • Sexuality and the Law
  • Law as an Instrument of Social Change
  • Aboriginal Peoples and the Law

9. The Legal Profession

  • The Evolution of the Canadian Legal Profession
  • The Profession Today
  • Social Class and the Law

10. Researching Law in Society

  • Methods of Inquiry
  • The Impact of Sociology on Social Policy

Required text and materials

The following textbooks are required for this course:

Vago, S., Nelson, A., Nelson, V., & Barkan, S. E. (2018). Law and society (5th Canadian ed.). New York: Routledge.
ISBN-13: 978-1-138-21591-7
Type: Textbook


Please be aware that should your course have a final exam, you are responsible for the fee to the online proctoring service, ProctorU, or to the in-person approved Testing Centre. Please contact with any questions about this.

To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course, and 50% or higher on the final mandatory exam.

Quiz 1 10%
Assignment 1: News article critique 10%
Quiz 2 10%
Assignment 2: Article critique 10%
Assignment 3: Photo essay 20%
Online postings 10%
Final Examination * 30%
Total 100%

* Mandatory

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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