Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Protecting law from Morality’s Stalking Horse: The ‘socio’ in much socio-legal studies

Wickham, G. (2008) Protecting law from Morality’s Stalking Horse: The ‘socio’ in much socio-legal studies. Law Text Culture, 12 (1). pp. 104-127.

PDF - Published Version
Download (122kB)
Free to read:
*No subscription required


Invited a few years ago by one of the field’s leading journals ‘to stimulate discussion about the nature, role and future of socio-legal studies’ ( JLS Editors 2002: 632), Roger Cotterrell (2002) and Paddy Hillyard (2002), two leading socio-legal scholars, stress the connection between the legal and the moral. Morality, they believe, is the heart and soul of the law. For them, only when socio-legal studies allows the law-morality connection to be its guiding light is it at its strongest. To list five of their examples, this type of morality-to-the-fore socio-legal studies is open to many influences, is flexible in how it interprets these influences, produces a rich diversity of intellectual outcomes, expands the boundaries of what counts as ‘law’, and, in doing so, is a leader in the utilisation of the work of Michel Foucault (Cotterrell 2002: 632–9, Hillyard 2002: 646–50). The field would be lost, they suggest, without the law–morality connection. This high regard for morality — as the driving force of law, as the very raison d’être of socio-legal studies — is hardly unusual: it is the common currency of the highly influential brand of socio-legal scholarship that is consistent with the individual reason-based tradition (exemplified by John Rawls, esp. 1971) or the communitarian tradition (exemplified by Alisdair MacIntyre, esp. 1988). Yet I contend it is very dangerous, threatening the role of the law as a vital cog in modern Western countries.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: University of Wollongong
Copyright: © The Author
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year