Can law bring about social change? Does social change lead to legal change? In what ways? This course draws from various perspectives such as sociology, psychology, political science, and legal scholarship, to examine the relationship between law and social change. We will ground our discussions in case studies on local issues, such as crime and punishment, particularly drug-related crimes and the death penalty, the legislating of financial maintenance of parents, and homosexuality and the (de)criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.
After taking this module, students are expected to:
- Have knowledge on various perspectives on the relationship between law and social change.
- Develop critical thinking about the promise and perils of law in relation to social change.
- Develop critical thinking about contemporary issues affecting law and Singaporean society.
Unit 1 Introduction (2 weeks)
This unit introduces students to the themes and focus of this course, as well as preliminary issues, such as the question of “what is law,” and classical and contemporary perspectives on the relationship between law and society.
Unit 2 Case Study 1 on Drug-related Crimes and the Death Penalty (3 weeks)
Using the controversy over Singapore’s imposition of the death penalty on drug-related crimes, this unit considers how much legal sanctions can deter and change behavior and their implications on social justice, sociological perspectives on capital punishment, how society responds to crime and how law constructs “deviance,” and the social processes involving criminal prosecution and defense, and their social implications.
Unit 3 Case Study 2 on Legislating Filial Piety and the Maintenance of Parents Act (3 weeks)
Using Singapore’s legislative effort at preserving/promoting filial piety, this unit considers issues concerning law in action – how the process of disputing construct the meaning of disputes themselves, whether and how the effect of law is mediated by alternative norms, and how power dynamics among parties as well as formal proceedings affect the ways in which disputes develop, are resolved, and are understood.
Unit 4 Case Study 3 on Homosexuality and the (De)criminalization of Same-sex Sexual Conduct (3 weeks)
Drawing from recent debates over the repeal/retention of Section 377A of the Penal Code, this unit considers the historical origins and contemporary enforcement of the law, various normative perspectives on regulating sexuality, and the social implications of regulating sexuality, debates over whether and how courts can produce social change, as well as how social actors use and respond to the law in their efforts to bring about social change.
(i) Assignment 1 – Individual (20%)
Journal entry based on student’s reflection on issues considered in Case Study 1, drawing from class readings, or the first field trip in combination with the class readings.
(ii) Assignment 2 – Individual(20%)
Journal entry based on student’s reflection on issues considered in Case Study 2, drawing from class readings, or the second field trip in combination with the class readings.
(iii) Assignment 3 – Individual (10%)
Proposal for the final paper.
(iv) Assignment 4 – Individual (40%)
Final research paper that analyzes the relationship between law and social change in the context of a contemporary social issue. The analysis should draw primarily on empirical and/or theoretical perspectives considered in Case Study 3 – but not necessarily on the specific topic of that case study – and, if relevant, perspectives covered in the earlier case studies and field trips.
(v) Class Participation (10%)
Assessed by classroom contributions.
Seminar, Readings and Assignment Schedule:
*CR refers to course reader.
Meeting 1: Introduction
Friedman, Lawrence, & Jack Ladinsky (1967) “Social Change and the Law of Industrial Accidents” 67 Columbia Law Rev. 50-82.
Zemans, Frances Kahn (1983) “Legal Mobilization: The Neglected Role of Law in the Political System” 77 American Political Science Rev. 690-703.
Meeting 2: What is Law?
Macaulay, Stewart (1963) “Non-contractual Relations in Business: A Preliminary Study,” 28 American Sociological Review 55-68.
Meeting 1: Theoretical Perspectives on Law-Society Relations I
Saarsteiner, Nikki. "Questions of punishment & society: What can Durkheimian theories contribute to the debate?" [to be provided]
Sptizer, Stephen (1983). “Marxist Perspectives in the Sociology of Law.” 9 Annual Review of Sociology 103.
Trubek David (1972). “Max Weber on Law and the Rise of Capitalism,” Wisconsin Law Review 720-53.
Meeting 2: Theoretical Perspectives on Law-Society Relations II
Macaulay, Stewart, Lawrence M. Friedman, and John Stookey. (1995). “Introduction.” In Law and Society: Readings on the Social Study of Law, edited by S. Macaulay, Lawrence M. Friedman, and John Stookey. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.
Case Study 1: Drug-related Crimes and the Death Penalty
Meeting 1: Introduction
“Malaysia seeks clemency for death row inmate in Singapore” (2010) Channel Newsasia [ http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1072147/1/.html ]
“Wanted: 100,000 signatures to save Vui Kong” (2010) Malaysiakini [ http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/137961 ]
"Singapore plans changes to mandatory death penalty" (2012) BBC [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18778442 ]
Meeting 2: Legal Sanctions and Rational Choice Perspectives
Chan, Sek Keong (2006) “From Justice Model to Crime Control Model,” International Conference on Criminal Justice under Stress: Transnational Perspectives (Address by Singapore’s Chief Justice)
Hor, Michael (2001) “Singapore’s Innovations to Due Process” 12 Criminal Law Forum 25-40.
Meeting 1: The death penalty and sociological perspectives on punishment
“96% of S’poreans Back the Death Penalty” (February 12, 2006) The Straits Times.
Meeting 2: Social Responses to Crime and the Construction of Deviance
Selections from Singapore’s Parliamentary debates on drug-related crimes and the death penalty [to be provided].
“Deglamorising Cannabis” (1995) 346(8985) The Lancet
“The War on Drugs: Prohibition Isn’t Working – Some Legalisation Will Help” (1995) 311 British Medical J.
Garland, David (1991) "Sociological Perspectives on Punishment," 14 Crime and Justice. Chicago 115-165.
Meeting 1: Criminal Dispute Resolution I
Field Trip 1: Observation of criminal trial proceedings in the Subordinate Courts (if possible, a drug-related trial)
Meeting 2: Criminal Dispute Resolution II
Blumberg, Abraham (1967) “The Practice of Law as Confidence Game: Organizational Cooptation of a Profession,” 1 Law and Society Rev. 15-39.
Lisa Frohman (1997) “Convictability and Discordant Locales: Reproducing Race, Class, and Gender Ideologies in Prosecutorial Decisionmaking.” 31 Law & Society Rev. 531.
ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE
Case Study 2: Legislating Filial Piety and the Maintenance of Parents Act
Meeting 1: Introduction
Selections from Selections from Singapore’s Parliamentary debates on the Maintenance of Parents Bill [to be provided].
“Woon’s Parents Bill: Easiest Part Is Over” (May 24, 1994) The Straits Times.
Meeting 2: Legal Mobilization and Disputes as Social Constructs
Felstiner, William et al. (1981) “The Emergence and Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, and Claiming...” 15 Law and Society Rev. 631-654
Bumiller, Kristin (1986) "Victims in the Shadow of the Law: A Critique of the Model of Legal Protection" 12 Signs 3-16.
Meeting 1: Dispute Resolution and Alternative Norms I
Mnookin, Robert, and Lewis Kornhauser (1979) “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce,” 88 Yale Law J. 950-997.
Meeting 2: Dispute Resolution and Alternative Norms II
Engel, David (2009) “Landscapes of the Law: Injury, Remedy, and Social Change in Thailand” 43 Law & Society Rev. 61-95.
Meeting 1: Dispute Resolution and Power I
Field Trip 2: Observation of civil proceedings in Subordinate Courts or Family Courts
Meeting 2: Dispute Resolution and Power II
Bryan, Penelope E. (1992) “Killing Us Softly: Divorce Mediation and the Politics of Power” 40 Buffalo Law Rev. 441 .
ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE
Case Study 3: Homosexuality and the (De)Criminalization of Same-Sex Sexual Conduct
Meeting 1: Introduction I
Selected news reports in 2007 on the Parliamentary Petition to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code [to be provided].
Devan, Janadas. “377A and The Rewriting of Pluralism" (October 27, 2007) Straits Times.
Meeting 2: Historical Origins and Legal Enforcement
Chua, Lynette J. (2003) “Saying No: Section 377 and Section 377A of the Penal Code” Singapore J. of Legal Studies 209-261.
MMeeting 1: Perspectives on Regulating Sexuality I
Lawrence v. Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003) [selections to be assigned]
Lee, Yvonne C.L. (2008) “’Don't Ever Take a Fence Down Until You Know the Reason it Was Put Up’- Singapore Communitarianism and the Case for Conserving 377A” Singapore J. of Legal Studies 347-394.
Selection from Prime Minister Lee’s speech in Singapore’s Parliamentary Debates on the repeal of Section 377A. [to be provided]
Meeting 2: Perspectives on Regulating Sexuality II
Foucault, Michel (1978) History of Sexuality. New York: Random House. [to be provided]
Meeting 1: Courts and Social Change I
“Lawyer Challenges Section 377A of the Penal Code” (2011) Asiaone News [ http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne+News/Crime/Story/A1Story20110927-301840.html ]
Meeting 2: Courts and Social Change II
Rosenberg, Gerald. 2008. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [selections]
Galanter, Marc (1983) "The Radiating Effects of Courts," in K. Boyum and L. Mather, eds. Empirical Theories about Courts. New York: Longman [to be provided].
ASSIGNMENT 3 (PAPER PROPOSAL) DUE
Meeting 1: Law and Resistance I
Screening of film on gay rights movement (title to be determined)
Meeting 2: Law and Resistance II
Barkan, Steven (1984) "Legal Control of the Southern Civil Rights Movement." 49 American Sociological Rev. 552-565.
Merry, Sally (1995) “Resistance and the Cultural Power of Law.” 29 Law & Society Rev. 11-26.
Individual consultation with students on paper proposals
ASSIGNMENT 4 (FINAL PAPER) DUE