chapter  7
31 Pages

Law and Social Change

BySteven Vago, Adie Nelson, Veronica Nelson, Steven E. Barkan

This chapter describes how social stratification impacts the efficacy of the law as an instrument of social change. At the beginning of industrialization and urbanization in Europe, Bentham expected legal reforms to respond quickly to new social needs and to restructure society. In a broad historical context, social change has been slow enough to make custom the principal source of law. There are numerous historical and cross-cultural examples of law's use to induce broad social changes in society. Recognition of the role of law as an instrument of social change is becoming more pronounced in contemporary society. In many areas of social life, such as education, race relations, housing, transportation, energy utilization, the protection of the environment, and crime prevention, the law and litigation are important instruments of change. As an instrument of social change, law entails two interrelated processes: the institutionalization and the internalization of patterns of behaviour.