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 — Seminar in Interdisciplinary 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: Seminar in Interdisciplinary 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: Foundations of Legal Thought introduces students to movements and schools of thought in modern legal scholarship, exploring how these theories affect the practice of legal argument and judicial decision-making. Many of these approaches developed out of the debates within and critiques of these and other movements. We will therefore study schools of thought not as self-sustained conversations, but as responding to perceived flaws in earlier or contemporary legal thought, and as attempting to effect practical legal results. These schools of thought may include Formalism; Legal Realism; the Law and Society Movement; Critical and Feminist Legal Theory; Critical Race Theory as well as contemporary responses to late 20th-century movements. 

MALS 70400 Interdisciplinary Topics in Law* - Law may be described as a discipline in the sense of a set of rules. This topics course will treat law as such a set of rules, as a practice and a field of study, but not as a discipline in a broader, academic sense. Rather each iteration of this course will experiment with and apply methodologies from one or more disciplines distinct from the law—economics, philology, philosophy, literary analysis and semiotics, sociology, history—to the study, analysis and critique of law and its institutions. In addition to interdisciplinary scholarship, readings will include case law and legislation or other primary legal sources. May be repeated for credit.

*Courses offered under the 70400 rubric include: Contracts and Commitments; Labor in Sociology of Law; Law and Interpretation; Law and the Arts; Law as Religion, Religion as Law; Law, Literature and Theory; Legal History and Legal Precedent; Philosophical Concepts in Torts and Criminal Law; Property and New Institutional Economics.

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 HistoryPolitical Science, and Sociology.

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.

associated faculty

Faculty, who have taught core courses or electives for this concentration or supervised theses and capstones, include Domna Stanton and Miryam Segal.

Law and Society Concentration Faculty


Joe Rollins

Associate Professor

  • Political Science

Associate Professor

  • Liberal Studies

Associate Professor

  • Women's and Gender Studies
Miryam Segal - Associate Professor -  profile photo

Miryam Segal

Associate Professor

  • Liberal Studies

Associate Professor

  • Middle Eastern Studies