This chapter discusses the concept of class in an important subfield, the sociology of law. Class, a pivotal institution of society, was central to the earliest studies of legal institutions and of law and inequality in particular. More recently, class has played a less important role. This chapter argues for the continuing importance of class and provides examples of its potential use in contemporary sociolegal research. The first part reviews early work that employed class and instrumental models of the state. Grounded, anti-formal models of law provided a contrasting view. Following wider trends in the discipline, sociology of law turned from structural models to theories oflaw as an ideology, and most recently, as reviewed in the second part, to law as an element of consciousness and experience. While acknowledging the value of contemporary research that documents a deeply textured, paradoxical, and nuanced analysis of the role of law in society, the third part argues for theorizing the link between experience and context, including the role of social class, and presents a research agenda for a sociology of law, where the relationship between law and class is considered both as institution and experience.
22 Annual Reviews of Sociology 187 (1996)