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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 concentration within the MALS program introduces students to the methodologies, issues, and debates that today form the center of the Law & Society movement. 

Degree Requirements

MALS students take four classes within the program — Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, two core courses in their chosen concentration, and the thesis/capstone project — and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at The Graduate Center.

This master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies] (3 credits).
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to Law and Society [MALS 70300 and MALS 70400] (6 credits).
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice that are relevant to the student’s concentration or studies
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits). 


Core Courses

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.

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).

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at The Graduate Center.

For related coursework in Law and Society, students may look to offerings in the doctoral programs in History, Political Science, and Sociology.


MALS faculty associated with this concentration:

Other GC faculty associated with this concentration:


Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Law and Society research is reference librarian Silvia Cho.