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Once regarded as mere pawns of their regimes, courts in authoritarian states are now the subject of considerable attention within the field of comparative judicial politics. New research examines the ways in which law and courts are deployed as instruments of governance, how they structure state-society contention, and the circumstances in which courts are transformed into sites of active resistance. This new body of research constitutes an emergent field of inquiry, while simultaneously contributing to a number of related research agendas, including authoritarian durability and regime transition, human rights, transitional justice, law and development, and rule-of-law promotion. Moreover, this research offers important insights into the erosion of rights and liberties in “consolidated democracies.”
Law and Society in Brazil at the Crossroads: A Review
This article presents a general overview of Brazilian sociolegal studies. After presenting a short historical narrative of the field in Brazil, we argue that the early years of intense teaching of legal sociology had a politically committed approach, which gave rise to growing criticism of Brazilian legal scholarship that in turn affected the self-image of law professors. Different theoretical strands appeared in the years that followed, and some specific fields of research gained importance, particularly those concerning a sociology of the legal profession, the administration of courts, and law schools. However, we contend that as time went by, many sociolegal scholars began to neglect the critical approach to law, and today most of them fail to confront critical aspects of the gap between law on the books and law in action, especially when that gap affects lower classes or stigmatized populations.
Social science research offers critical race theory (CRT) scholars a useful methodology to advance core CRT claims. Among other things, social science can provide CRT with data and theoretical frameworks to support key empirical claims. Social psychology and sociology in particular can help to explain how race constructs key aspects of social experience - for example, the role of race in suspicion of African Americans as potentially criminal and the use of excessive force by law enforcement. At the same time, a collaboration between CRT and social science risks undermining CRT critiques of objectivity and neutrality and potentially limits the theory's ability to combat structural forms of racial inequality. CRT scholars can mitigate these risks by choosing social science methods carefully and by recognizing that social science is only one among several modes of knowledge production.