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Foundations of Law and Society


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master Law and Society; completion of summer reading requirements.


This class is the beginning of the course of study in the Master Law and Society. The course will introduce students to major theoretical perspectives in the field of socio-legal studies and survey central problems in contemporary research. The course serves both to provide a foundation for more advanced and topic-specific courses, and to introduce students to a range of faculty and research areas in the Master.

The course is guided by three overarching questions: How is law in the books different from law in action? How do law and legal institutions affect social relations and the distribution of power within society? And how do social relations and existing power differentials affect the emergence, preservation, and changes of law and legal institutions? In considering these questions, the course concentrates on themes that are further developed in the Master, including lawmaking, law enforcement, dispute resolution, legal pluralism, and the role of social movements.

The course will begin with a series of interactive lectures and small seminar teaching lead by the course coordinator to introduce students to the field of socio-legal studies. After the first several meetings, the course will feature guest lectures from the faculty of the Master, who will discuss areas of their specific topical expertise.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
At the end of this course, students must be able to:

  • Explain how society influences the emergence, preservation, and change of laws and legal institutions;

  • Describe how the enforcement of laws, and the behavior of legal institutions, affect different segments of society;

  • Distinguish the different determinants of legal consciousness;

  • Offer different explanations for variation in (non)compliance, enforcement, disputing, and dispute resolution;

  • Evaluate the basic logic and soundness of empirical socio-legal research.


The timetable of this course can be found here.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 1 per week for 10 weeks

  • Names of lecturers: to be announced

  • Required preparation by students: completion of required reading


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 1 per week for 10 weeks

  • Names of instructors: to be announced

  • Required preparation by students: completion of required reading and class reflections

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • The course requires a midterm examination (30%), reflection assignments (20%), and a final exam (50%).

  • There is a possibility of a resit for the reflection assignments (20%) and the final exam (50%).

Submission procedures
Submission of exams will take place through the online course platform on Brightspace.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials
The required reading, as well as supplemental and recommended materials, will be posted online in advance on the Brightspace environment for the course.


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.

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Chase Burton

  • Work address: KOG (Steenschuur 25 Leiden), room A1.57

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

  • Email:


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

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

  • Room number secretary: KOG (Steenschuur 25 Leiden), room B1.14

  • Opening hours: Monday till Thursday and Friday morning

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

  • Email: