Law,Society and Community Socio Legal Essay in Honour of Roger Cotterrel

  • Charul Lunia
  • July 31, 2020

Content :


Roger Cotterrell is a distinguished professor in the field of law and sociology, though his researching areas have been jurisprudence, sociological of law, comparative law and social theory. This book was published in honor of this esteemed professor of Queen Mary University of London when he retired from his position. He has authored and edited 14 books and written more than 150 essays. This book is divided in 3 parts of 19 chapters which have comments from all prominent authors which were admired by Professor Cotterrell. So this book is to be considered as written by collective of various authors but later edited and co-edited by Richard Nobels and David Schiff who are professors of Queen Mary University of London. The book is published by Ashgate publishing house. The book is divided under 3 themes that are socio-legal themes, methodological and jurisprudential themes and lastly Globalization, cultural and Comparative Law themes. Every chapter is placed in a form so that after reading the reader has formed a chain of opinions which is carefully made. The book gives you the idea of how sociology and law are so closely related they are inseparable and indeed they shouldn’t be separate but perhaps be interpreted in such way that they compliment in each other. It is mentioned that the book is honor of Roger Cotterrell but the book has opinions both in favor and in opposition to Cotterrell’s notions. Part 1 in one line talks about the need of interpreting law sociologically, how sociology of law is moral science and important for an integrated society and everything related from history, internal  study of law to politics all in context of sociology. In contradiction to Part 1 where the main topic was interpreting law sociologically the Part 2 talks about other topics under which sociologically could perfectly gel and work as co-workers. Part 2 talks about broad interdeciplinarity of legal philosophy and legal sociology, conceptualizing theories and trying to look at them through different lenses i.e. communities, cultural, justice delivery system etc. Part 2 also talks about politics of jurisprudence, legal alienation, riots This is a part where theories are criticized and looked upon various angles, changes which should be made and what is the core about all the theories presented. Part 3 has a broad theme about globalization, cultural and comparative law themes; this is the part where it whole heartedly explained sociology in international law and its overlapping, how in coming times legal pluralism will change to globalised legal pluralism, how in the 21st century the rule of law will change and to keep sanity(civility) in place like in older centuries, a brief topic also talks about Americans rooting everything and being originalists. The book is carefully edited and written it tries to cover every aspect and give answer to every question which may arise in a scholars mind pertaining to Law, Society and community and there interdependence with sociology. 


This book is collection of all socio-legal ideologies of Roger Cotterrell which are critically examined and pondered upon by leading theorists of the same/similar field. These theorists and researchers offer original, perceptive, innovative contributions to all the ideas and thoughts expounded by claimed Roger Cotterrell. Each and every essay is thought provoking and mind stimulating ordained to become individually acclaimed pieces. These essays engage reader in multiplicity and complexity of contemporary legal world and its changing future.  This book has brought many of Cotterrell’s close colleagues and friends to provide their opinion and engage in publishing their ideas. However one can guess a pattern here when many of the author support Cotterrell’s way of theorizing many concepts from various subjects under one theme and leaving no space to entry of new ideas and concept more overly creating a vacuum where no new theories can be established without changing the pre-existing Cotterrell’s ideas. 

Part 1:- Socio-Legal Themes 

This part centrally talks about the interpretation of law sociologically. The first part in detail explains the reader to interpret legal ideas and form perspectives. The interpretational method can be applied to wide array of socio-legal themes as well as help in liberally incorporating different legal themes individually. Part 1 in its entirety wants to convey the relevance of social science and moral society. This part also explains the strategies which can be adopted for interpretation one being action-oriented sociology of meaning gelled with historical method and the interpretations developed in earlier times. Then to defend the ideas in a suitable way as interpreted by the directly related people i.e. judges and lawyers. Another method emphasized upon is comparing with a live example and analyzing with changing the positions. It was suggested that to fulfill the interpretation objective a situation must be seen as a closed bordered area where the lines are to jurisdictionally confined and are the spaces where exchanges can happen, here the normative approach will suggest that the area should be open-bordered where everyone can put forth their ideas and various alternatives can arise on the other hand the legal participants must be confronted with various legal problems where they can grow themselves and broaden their understanding law as well as challenge the law. This is the practical approach which makes us lead in a direction where there is legal pluralism and various facets of law are being developed to cater to various needs. The idea of pluralism is also true when we live in a society which integrates various communities with different cultures and their own politics. Though this settlement does not couple with Cotterrell’s thinking of moral society, also various scholars have given dissenting opinion on legal politics and theory. 

Part 2:- Methodological and Jurisprudential Themes 

Part 2 in beginning focuses on solving the problem arising of integrating legal philosophy with sociology of law and doctrinal legal research. This part deals with legal interactions with different themes to interpret a law appropriately. The force of law for example shows us the vertical interaction between a ruler and the people who are ruled. Many new concepts are introduced in this part one being the concept of alteration where it is stated that law, rights, states and related concepts are not in uniform manner around the world. Also it is important that between different cultures there is a stand of alterations as it allows co-existence of multi-cultures with some underlying rules common to whole of humanity. This part not only includes theories or concepts but also results of various empirical legal researches. This part beautifully explains the Cotterrell’s idea of law and community with an example. Examining the 2011 UK riots in the wake of police shooting. The central theme of community is reveled in a negative way by  media reporting and when lawyers, social workers, judges are asked to opinionate upon this topic, we come to the conclusion that the idea of community was too ideal then the reality it was superfluous and rather shows a darker side of  law in alienation. Later this concept is broken down into cynicism, legal powerlessness low moral values all keeping in mind the shooting by police officers. The last two chapter of this part are particularly intriguing they are distinctly focused, in these chapters law is not conceptualized or theorized instead legislation is seen as art and not mere set of techniques usually prevalent in national and international courts. The last chapters indeed show us a futuristic opinion of Cotterrell where he says that a large degree of practical applicability in advanced form is to be seen with changing times i.e. each form of law has its self- description, applicability, adaptability which can change with changing societal norms. This implies that legal theory can impact legal practices too.

Part 3:- Globalization, Cultural and Comparative Law Themes

Part 3 is all about issues relating to an integrated world pertaining to national and international issues after world as whole is a community of humans. The initial chapters are about history of international courts and there integration, how they were theorized and how they help the global community. It is also concerned over that if these international courts have a huge play in pertaining global culture. Again here Legal pluralism is talked upon but on a global level. A thought provoking statement is whether this globalised legal pluralism has liberally integrated various legal norms and has possibly embraced every decision taken by decision makers. There are growing connections in communities having various cultures and norms are integrated in each other as this partake us to a globalised community. There is a comparative analysis of various laws in last 3 chapters which are concerned with human rights. The civil rights struggle of US in the 1960s is mentioned where illegal activities and riots were prevalent shows us how adherence to civility can be problematic if it encourages such behavior. Later it is mentioned about the rights in the American Constitution and what it is like to be an American to live like an American and think like an American. The ideology of originality of American shows us how they take pride in the said identity and find themselves as an exceptional nation. Lastly the book talks about human rights on international level and how such integration has led to promotion of the ‘Rule of Law’. This was possible only when the communists fell and there was a greater sense of democracy with expansion in political and legal notions and how these ideas reflect in various communities is related how the community is built and how willingly they want to adopt.  


The book is not easy to read and is apt for legal scholars and students from sociological background who have a keen interest in sociology and its entry in various legal themes. A student could find this book interesting if they particularly like the subject and willing to read many times before to perfectly understand the concepts. The book is knowledgeable as defines the origin of various courts and international integration of law and community. The book is informative as tells about the circumstances which used to prevail in US, UK from time to time. If one gets a hold of it one may find the book interesting. The book is a quest to find some loop holes or some way to form an opinion as dissenting or helping the ideologies of Roger Cotterrell but for a student it is indeed hard to compete with such high level professor of sociology and law or I may say ‘Sociology of Law’. The authors supports his argument so well that anyone else hardly have any chance to counter the arguments even if they do the author simply with examples explains his theories to get the essay author familiar with concept. The ideologies, there working, the conditions for them to work, the dynamics of different communities and  humanity as a global community, The theories formulated to solve certain problems and the still ideation of giving space to interpret for future changes in law and yet explaining to reader why the stated theory could be the only one most feasible and practical are some points one could easily identify in this book and would love to read it. The only weakness of book is the strong vocabulary and language while the strengths are thought provoking, mind stimulating, formulation of questions, finding their answers and trying to understand like the various scholars in book are some strength. I would like to recommend this book because this book is not single authored it has various essays written by various scholars and then lastly edited by some. The book gives you an insight into the mind of well acclaimed authors and how they formulate, defend or deny theories, what all they keep in mind how they come to conclusion is an art and it is presented in this book. In all the book is great but one must have the patience to read and understand it. 

The book honors the legal profession and the study of law by integrating opinions of international well known scholars whose ideologies must be read and understood once.