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Law and Society


MALS students take four classes within the program—Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, two core courses in their chosen track, and the thesis—and choose their remaining electives from among all courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs at the Graduate Center.


MALS Track in Law and Society

The practice and study of law have changed significantly throughout history as has our understanding of its scholarly place and form. Lawyers were once seen as practitioners of a craft who learned their trade through apprenticeship. This conception of law, lawyers, and legal institutions gave way to the belief that law was a system of formalized rules, a conception that, subsequently, has been subject to sustained critique and revision. Starting in the early 1960s, scholars within the Law & Society movement—many of them lawyers—began studying law from a wide array of scholarly perspectives. Today, researchers from across the academy find themselves dealing with law at some point in their scholarly careers. The Law & Society track within the MALS program introduces students to the methodologies, issues, and debates that today form the center of the Law & Society movement. It consists of three courses, two core courses described below, and a third elective option to be chosen by the student:

The first core course, MALS 70300: Law, Politics, and Policy, introduces students to the dominant modes of legal scholarship found in the social sciences. Different sections of the course will examine foundational texts of the Law & Society movement, surveying, for example, major contributions from political science, sociology, criminology, psychology, and other empirically grounded disciplines. It is designed to expose students to legal formalism (in the Langdellian sense of formalism), and to introduce them to institutions and legal reasoning, including statutes, legislation, and precedents.

The second core course, MALS 70400 Cultural Studies and the Law, explores legal scholarship in the humanities, emphasizing cultural studies and critical theory, in addition to history, literature, media, and art. While the first course in this sequence is designed to teach students about law as a formalist, political institution, this course considers the ways that law is represented in other social locations and how those other discourses shape our conceptions of law and legal actors. This course will feature the law and legal representations as they interact with other social structures (e.g., art, politics, media, the family), and identity categories (e.g., race, gender, sexuality).

Questions about the MALS track in Law and Society may be directed to