Annual Lecture: A Socio-legal Quest: From Jurisprudence to Sociology of Law and Back Again with Professor Roger Cotterrell

Jurisprudence can be justified as a theoretical resource devoted to supporting lawyers’ normative practice. Sociology of law is the study of law as an empirical social phenomenon using the methods of social science. I argue that jurisprudence is necessarily a value-focused endeavour committed to promoting the well-being of the idea of law. Sociology of law needs no such commitment. But it has a long heritage of theory about law. Nowadays socio-legal studies continue the tradition of social science oriented enquiries about law. What is the relationship today between jurisprudence and social science in addressing pressing theoretical issues about the nature of law today? In what is widely seen as a time of vast crises affecting law, do jurisprudence and SLS have theoretical resources to examine law in a way that engages the most fundamental of these crises? This lecture asks how jurisprudence must serve law’s ultimate values in such conditions, and why socio-legal inquiry must be an indispensable element in addressing this jurisprudential task.