Can Sociology Clarify Legal Values?
Émile Durkheim’s claims about justice, human dignity, and the value system of moral individualism in complex modern societies are part of the canon of classical theoretical ideas that underpin social research. Yet these claims are often neglected in sociolegal studies or seen as remote from much current Western legal experience. This chapter examines Durkheim’s sociological conceptions of justice, dignity, and individualism to demonstrate their general usefulness for the study of legal values in contemporary Western societies. Applying these ideas to such diverse clusters of topics as punishment and the use of torture on the one hand and sexuality and the wearing of Islamic headscarves on the other, the chapter argues that his work sheds important new light on current legal controversies and provides enduring insights for a developing sociology of legal values.