by Max Travers. New York: Routledge, 2010. 220pp. Cloth. $145.00. ISBN: 9780415430326. Paper. $57.95. ISBN: 9780415430333. eBook format. $145.00. ISBN: 9780203871256.

Reviewed by Mark C. Miller, Department of Political Science, Clark University. Email: MMiller [at] clarku.edu.


Although the title of this book might lead the reader to assume that this work is about the interdisciplinary field known as law and society, or even about the somewhat broader field of socio-legal research, the book is really a textbook for undergraduates that explores the theoretical traditions in the field of sociology of law. The author, Max Travers, is a former solicitor in Great Britain who is now a sociologist at the University of Tasmania in Australia. The textbook is aimed at undergraduate law students in countries where a law degree is an undergraduate degree, as well as undergraduate sociology majors with an interest in the sociology of law. The book purposely avoids most substantive topics such as the sociology of the legal profession or the sociology of dispute resolution. Instead, it focuses almost exclusively on sociological theory and how that theory applies to the field of sociology of law.

After a brief introductory chapter, Chapter 2 looks at what classical sociological thinkers had to say about law. This chapter begins with a brief examination of the main theories of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, then progresses to what Travers labels as sociological jurisprudence from a variety of international scholars (e.g. Savigny, Sumner, Petrazycki, and Erlich). The chapter ends with the American legal realist tradition of Holmes, Pound, and Llewellyn. As is true throughout the book, most of the discussions of any given thinker are fairly brief.

Chapter 3 explores what Travers labels “The Consensus Tradition” in sociology, which he defines as a group of thinkers who argue that society can best be understood as a biological organism or even a cybernetic entity held together by shared values. Thus this chapter mostly focused on the works of structural-functionalists such as Parsons, Luhmann, and Selznik. This chapter also examines new institutionalist theories of law and sociology.

Chapter 4 examines critical theories of law and sociology. This chapter begins with an examination of Marxist theories in general, and then focuses more specifically on other critical theorists such as Habermas and Bourdieu. The chapter then moves to case studies to illustrate critical theories, including the issues of employment law and same sex marriage around the world. The chapter concludes with critical theories regarding the legal professions, focusing almost exclusively on the legal professions in the common law world. Chapter 5 follows a similar format as the preceding chapter, focusing specifically on feminist theories and the law.

Chapter 6 explores the interpretive tradition of sociology and law, focusing [*206] mostly on the debates between the followers of Durkheim and Weber respectively. Chapter 7 looks at the views of various postmodern thinkers on issues of law and sociology. These theorists include Derrida, Foucault, and various other thinkers who address questions of identify and difference. The final substantive chapter looks at issues of legal pluralism and globalization.

Overall, this is a very good textbook for those looking for a survey of various law and sociology theorists. It has much less to offer for those wanting a more interdisciplinary approach, or for those who want a textbook to explore the trends in empirical socio-legal or law and society scholarship.

© Copyright 2010 by the author, Mark C. Miller.