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Law, Politics & Society


Admission requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the Comparative Criminal Justice master’s programme.


This course examines the process of criminal justice policy making, by critically looking into and questioning the underlying rationales and decisions that are being made to use criminal law as the instrument of choice to respond to problems in society. This course examines how successful criminal law and criminal justice policy are in performing several major functions: allocating authority, defining relationships, resolving conflict, adapting to social change, and fostering social solidarity. In so doing, it will assess the nature and limits of rules and regulations as well as consider alternative perspectives on social control and social change.

Lawmaking frequently results from grassroots/bottom-up processes, where social demands are being 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 and play 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. A final theme of the course will be the process of legal diffusion or transplantation, in which lawmakers adopt foreign bodies of law or legal institutions – often without paying much attention to the different context in which the new rules must function.

From a criminological and legal-sociological perspective the course addresses what social and legal dilemma’s political and legal institutions face while governing the international threat of (transnational) terrorism, guaranteeing safety and handling (inter)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

  • can identify and analyse the complex dynamics of both the agenda setting stage and the legislative stage with regard to current criminal justice issues;

  • can characterize the various theoretical reflections on the development of a culture of control as well as a precaution-driven risk society and are able to use these theoretical insights to reflect critically upon different developments with regard to legislation in the field of public order and safety and are able to propose new policy arrangements;

  • can identify and describe the public role criminal justice scholars play in both the public and political debate and 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


  • The course consists of six interactive two-hour lectures, during which specific aspects of the literature will be further elaborated upon.

  • The lectures will be given by Prof. Van der Woude and several guest lecturers working in the larger field of lawmaking and counterterrorism.

  • In preparation of the lectures, students will have read and prepared the reading materials by answering three questions and formulating three questions related to all the reading materials.


  • This course comprises five mandatory two-hour seminars, in addition to the six lectures mentioned above.

  • Names of instructors: Roxane de Massol de Rebetz LLM MSc.

  • During the seminars, the leitmotiv will be the public role of the criminologist/criminal justice expert as a key factor and a major player in the public and political debate on public order, crime and safety and consequently also in the complex agenda setting and legislative stage. You will practice writing scientific op-eds (blogs) in which you are challenged to apply the acquired theoretical legal-sociological and criminological knowledge to case studies about various concrete security governance dilemmas. In addition to these four written assignments, students will have to orally present one of their assignments more elaborately.

  • Students will have to present their assignments – both orally and written – in such a way that their findings and argumentation are accessible for a more general audience of both citizens and politicians.

  • All students are required to attend and actively participate during lectures and seminars.

Other methods of instruction

  • Students will go to the Ministry of Justice and Security where they will talk to several senior legislatures working on criminal justice matters. This trip will be combined with a visit to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security. The fieldtrip is mandatory and students will have to submit a two-page reflective essay after the fieldtrip.

  • Weekly office hours during which the students can talk to the course coordinator about the study material, the blogs, etc. The office hours are not mandatory and students should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) prior in order to announce their wish to come to the office hours. Such requests should always include a short description of the reason for wanting to meet.

Assessment method

Assessment methods

  • You have to write weekly written assignments (four in total) and comments for the course weblog.

  • You have to present one of your written assignments.

  • You have to attend the fieldtrip and submit a two page reflective paper

  • You have to pass a written examination.

Course grades are determined by:

  • Weekly assignments and presentation (50%)

  • A final written open book examination(50%)

  • The weekly meetings and fieldtrip must be attended in order to pass this course. In preparation for the exam, you need to study all the prescribed literature as well as any audio and video material used.

  • All components 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.

  • The partial exams that have been finished with a passing grade, will be valid up to and including the academic year following the year in which the grade has been achieved. To this there is one exception: when the learning objectives, content, design or examination of a course has been changed, the course coordinator can decide that the validity of the partial exam concerned has expired due to didactic reasons. This will be stated in the course description of the academic year in which the change(s) will be implemented.

*Procedure for handing in your assignments *

  • All assignments must be submitted via Safe Assign (Blackboard)
    In case only a few of you need to do the exam or the retake, the exam and/or the retake may be oral. In that case, you will be informed 10 days ahead of the scheduled date.

Course language
The course language is English. Students enrolled in the specialization Criminal Policy and Law Enforcement are allowed to answer in Dutch on their written examination. The four written weekly assignments as well as the presentation have to be in English.

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.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

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


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.

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

  • Co-ordinator: Roxane de Massol de Rebetz LLM, MSc

  • Work address: Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance & Society, Steenschuur 25, Room number B 3.22

  • Telephone number: +31 71 527 7260

  • Email:


  • Institute: Metajuridica

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

  • Room number secretary: B1.14

  • Opening hours: Ma/Fr 9.00 – 12.30 h

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

  • Email: