The Significance of the Sociological Approach to Law for the Development of Jurisprudence

Vytautas Šlapkauskas

Abstract


On the basis of the development of social values and common rules of behavior we may distinguish three types in the sociological approach to law: 1) the classical sociological approach, which is characteristic of traditional society; 2) the modern sociological approach, which is characteristic of industrial society; 3) the post-modern sociological approach, which is based on maximizing individual welfare. The sociological approach is essentially practical and expresses the relationship between society a well as its individuals and groups with law. The classical sociological approach to law emerges as the legal order of the state is gradually replaced by the legal order based on customs.  The development of the modern sociological approach to law can be divided into two stages: 1)    The stage of developing a democracy, where order is established by means of laws and successive legislation. Members of society are expected to voluntarily obey the legal order of the state. Thus legislation is based on increasing knowledge about the reality of law. Knowledge of “legal realism” is a stimulus for the sociology of jurisprudence and the development of the sociology of law. 2)    The stage of using modern law as an instrument of creating the modern state. In the process of symbiosis between democracy and modern political thought jurisprudence has created the notion of law as an instrument of social change. This notion has put together two variables – the growing power of the modern state and social change. Modern law is considered only an instrument of the state’s political power and its efficiency is determined by the concentration of political forces, independently from the support of other systems of social regulation. Analyzing the sociological approach to law has lost its relevance. This explains the negative consequences of society’s legal culture: 1) the unconditional endorsing of the instrumental approach to law; 2) the weakening of the link between society and law. The weakening of the link between society and law is particularly hazardous because individuals’ voluntary obedience to the rule of law gives basis for the existence of society as such.

Keywords


sociological approach to law; jurisprudence; democracy; modern political thought; globalization

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236