chapter  14
14 Pages

The Sociology of International Law: An Introduction

ByMikael Rask Madsen

Like many other sociologists of law of my generation, one of my first encounters with the field was through Roger Cotterrell’s seminal book The Sociology of Law: An Introduction (1984/1992). When you were trained in law and particularly in the approach (still) prevalent at most continental European law faculties as I was, the sociology of law was somewhat of an exotic supplement to an education otherwise firmly founded in the study of black-letter law and legal doctrine. In Copenhagen, at the time of my studies, the sociology of law did not even have its own examination: it was rather pragmatically grouped with the history of law and the philosophy of law regardless of the obviously distinct epistemological premises of each of these disciplines. Nevertheless, since the sociology of law actually existed as part of the curriculum it could still influence a few odd students away from the sombre exegesis of law and legal doctrine and towards the seemingly livelier world of social science. Roger Cotterrell’s book was not compulsory reading in Copenhagen, but it featured heavily in the footnotes to the introductory book by Danish sociologist of law Jørgen Dalberg-Larsen. It was however compulsory reading when I enrolled in the MA programme at the International Institute of the Sociology of Law (IISL) in the mid 1990s. This was at the heyday of post-Cold War globalization and an alleged new form of hegemonic Pax Americana – a moment in which theories of McDonaldization, End of History, global network society and the like also featured centrally on the curriculum. Compared to these highly topical (and in some cases sensationalist) theories, Cotterrell’s systematic exploration of the sociology of law had a very different appeal: that of sociology of law as a rigorous empirical social science and one that could make law far more intelligible than most so-called legal theories.