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Lawmaking, Politics and Society


Admission requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Comparative Criminal Justice master’s programme, to the Dutch master's programme Criminaliteit & Rechtshandhaving or to the master's programme Law and Society: Governance & Global Development.


This course examines the process of policy and lawmaking, by critically looking into and questioning the underlying rationales and decisions that are being made to use law as the instrument of choice to respond to problems in society. In so doing, this course will predominantly focus on laws and policies that are drafted in response to what nowadays is considered to be a very urgent social threat: International and home-grown terrorism.

By focusing on this ‘extreme’ case of counterterrorism legislation, the course examines how successful law and policy can be in performing several major functions: allocating authority, defining relationships, resolving conflict, adapting to social change, and fostering social solidarity. It will assess the nature and limits of rules and regulations as well as consider alternative perspectives on social control and social change.

Lawmaking is frequently the result of grassroots/bottom-up processes, where social demands are articulated through collective action and then elevated to a higher political and administrative level. By contrast, lawmaking initiatives can also be the result of elite agendas that are played out far removed from the public view. Another important feature of lawmaking that students will learn about is how it involves social analysis or judgment of problems by those involved in the process, and how this is then translated into normative rules.

Additionally, part of the lawmaking process concerns an analysis of whether the new legal rules are in conformity with those already in place (including human rights). The course will pay attention to the ‘toolboxes’ of quality control instruments that have been developed across the globe to be used during lawmaking. A third theme is how ethnographies of lawmaking processes may be used to reveal the broader assumptions political and government elites have about the law and how it works in practice.

From a criminological and legal-sociological perspective, the course addresses social and legal dilemma’s faced by political and legal institutions while governing the international threat of (transnational) terrorism, guaranteeing safety and handling international and national crises on the one hand, and protecting the rule of law in a democratic yet complex society on the other hand.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
Upon completing this course, students

  • Explain and illustrate why law and policy should be seen as socially, culturally and politically constructed and how this affects those subjected to the law;

  • Can identify the different legal and non-legal factors and actors that influence the process of lawmaking and policymaking. In so doing they can critically reflect upon and explain why certain (f)actors will have a greater influence over others and, as a result of this, what this entails for the legitimacy and effects of laws and policies;

  • Can argue and illustrate why the context in which criminal justice policies and laws are being created is particularly complex and why this can be seen as problematic;

  • Are familiar with various criminological and socio-legal theoretical concepts and frameworks that can be used to (1) explain how and why in the context of criminal justice legislation and policy a shift towards prevention and precaution can be witnessed, (2) explain how legislation and can contribute to racial inequality and othering, (3) explain how and why certain formal laws and policies are unlikely to be effective when looking at the informal rules and perceptions that are dominant within the groups that are targeted by the formal laws and policies;

  • Are aware of, and can explain, the declining role of experts and expert knowledge in the process of lawmaking and policymaking;

  • Can reflect upon and argue why scholars should or should not play a more public role and what this in fact could entail;

  • Are able to give substance to this role by explaining criminal justice issues orally and in writing by using scientific findings and results combined with legal reasoning and argumentation.


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • If the course will take place offline, the course will consist of 6 two-hour offline lectures. In case of a fully online course, it will consist of 10 online one-hour lectures, during which specific aspects of the literature will be further elaborated upon.

  • The lectures will be given by Prof. Van der Woude

  • In preparation of the lectures, students will have read and prepared the reading materials which will be tested through several assignments that have to be handed in during, before or after class


  • This course comprises five mandatory two-hour (online or offline) seminars, in addition to the lectures mentioned above.

  • Names of instructors: Julia Rootenberg, Maryla Klajn and Nanou van Iersel

  • In preparation of the seminars the students will have to make weekly (group) assignments that will be presented and/ or discussed during the online meetings

Other methods of instruction

  • Weekly online office chat hours during which the students can talk to the seminar lecturer about the assignments, the reading materials or any other issues regarding the course

Assessment method

Assessment methods

  • You have to write assignments for the seminars

  • You have to do one (group) presentation

  • You have to pass a written examination.

  • All weekly seminars must be attended in order to pass this course.

Course grades are determined by a final portfolio that consists of:

  • 3 weekly blog assignments for the seminar (40% of the final grade)

  • 1 (group) presentation during the seminar (pass or fail). A pass counts as an entry requirement for the written examination.

  • 1 final written open book examination (60% of the final grade)

  • All components (average of the 3 blogs AND the written examination) should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully. If this is not the case, the lowest partial grade will be registered as final grade.

  • There will be a retake for the written examination mentioned above. Depending on the number of participants, the course coordinator can decide that this retake will be an oral examination. In that case, you will be notified of this in time.

  • In case the average grade for the blog assignments is 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website.

Reading list

  • A combination of international articles, the titles of which will be distributed via Brightspace, students will have to look up the articles themselves.


Students have to register for the lectures and working groups through uSis. With this registration you have access to the digital learning environment of this course in Brightspace. You may register up to 5 calendar days before the first teaching session begins.

Students have to register for exams and retakes through uSis. With this registration you also have access to the digital learning environment of this course in Brightspace You may register up to 10 calendar days before the exam or retake.

Employability and (academic) career

Participants train their skills in analytical and critical thinking on themes related to criminal justice (particularly policy making cycle and security and rule of law related issues) and presenting their research outcomes both verbally and in writing to different types of audiences via among others the practice of academic blogging.

Contact information


  • Institute: The Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of the Law

  • Department: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society

  • Room number secretary: B1.14

  • Opening hours: Monday till Thursday and Friday morning

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 7260

  • Email: