Upon successful completion of the course, students:
- Have learnt to examine various relationships between citizens and the law, from the standpoint of legal philosophy as well as of socio-legal studies.
- Are familiar with various philosophical theories concerning political obligation, punishment, and legal defenses.
- Are familiar with various socio-legal theories on legal pluralism, self-regulating and enforcement mechanisms and the relationship between public officials and citizens.
- Have learnt to read and engage with texts from a variety of disciplines – philosophical, socio-legal, and legal (cases & legislation) –, and to relate insights from these different disciplines to one another.
In brief, this course examines the relationship of people with the law. In the course of this class, we will explore three manifestations of that relationship. First, we will focus on the following of legal norms. From the philosophical standpoint, we will ask whether there is a moral obligation to obey the law. We may all agree that there is a legal obligation to obey which, if violated, can give rise to sanctions. But is there also a moral obligation to follow the dictates of the law? If so, how can this obligation be grounded? From a socio-legal perspective, we begin the course by analyzing the concept of legal pluralism. Prior to a discussion on why people as a matter of fact, do or do not follow the law, we need to scrutinize what exactly we mean when we talk about law and who we mean as a group what we talk about ‘we’. By taking legal pluralism as point of departure, we can place official state law in a broader field of legal and normative orders that coexist, overlap or even conflict with each other. While the legal and moral obligations to follow a law have been discussed, we can now zoom into the social obligations that affect rule following behavior of people. |
The second topic concerns the consequences of disobedience of the law. From a philosophical perspective we will inquire into the normative consequences of disobedience – i.e. a form of punishment –and ask how we can justify it. To that end, we will discuss various philosophical theories of punishment as well as look at limits to the legitimacy of punishment. Meanwhile, from a socio-legal standpoint, we will look into the function of sanctions for both legal and normative orders. While the State claims a monopoly on violence, various other legal and normative orders have their own means for coercion, affecting the way people behave. In this part we take a more practical approach and discuss how and under what conditions people follow a legal (state) rule. We will further explore the various constrains and forms of punishment that exists in other legal or normative orders.
Finally, the third topic will examine exceptions to the application of legal norms: When do legal norms not apply to people or when are they outweighed by other considerations? The philosophical questions to be explored include: ‘What is the moral justification for such legal defenses as justifications and excuses?’ and ‘Under what conditions, if ever, can civil disobedience be morally justified?’. From the socio-legal perspective, we will examine the conditions under which both people and public officials believe that legal norms do (not) apply. In this last session special attention will be given to the dilemmas of so called ‘street-level bureaucrats’.
This course is taught using the University College’s ‘Team-Teaching’ Method. The lecturers explore the topics of the seminars from their respective area of expertise, in collaboration and discussion with the students.