Legal Culture and empirical research
Coordinators: Deborah De Felice (University of Catania, Italy), Carlo Pennisi (University of Catania), Vicente Riccio (University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil), Francesca Vianello (University of Padova, Italy)
Description of the meeting
The concept of legal culture lies at the crossroads of the theoretical and methodological intersections when approaching the social dimensions of law. The autonomy of the law, as a system of rules with its own specific code, is the “cornerstone” of the legal language as well as of the legal education. On one hand, this image is based on the juridification of legal facts that are distinguished from non-legal ones; on the other hand, it refers to a particular conceptualization of jurisdiction as a whole autonomous method of decision-making.
From a sociological perspective, the institutionalization of the legal culture can be considered the result of a historical process which led to the monopoly of decision-making in so far as it determines what must be considered as “the law”, including legal effects of a certain action. According to such a premise, the legal-normative based approach aims to connect social complexity to legal rules and principles. While the procedural character of law is dependent on the linguistic structure and definition of legal phenomena, the legal decision-making is characterized as a communicative process, reflecting an open and reflexive nature.
In this perspective the ability to use the law as a prescribing language is entrusted to the “intersubjectivity” of its understanding within a given context: the lawyer produces his own discourse as a subject who interacts with a specific professional community and is recognized and legitimized by it as such. The analysis of this discourse can, on the one hand, enlighten the values and practices of the social context, defining the criteria of legal validity and reducing interpretative conflicts; on the other hand, it can be opened to external non legal contaminations as regards different nuances of critique and interpretation.
The Workshop “Legal Culture and empirical research” suggests a comparative analysis among different approaches to the legal culture in socio-legal studies and further developments envisaged by current research studies. The endeavour is to discuss approaches and methodologies of the empirical research in the field of legal sociology, in order to share reflections and views among legal sociologists who do empirical research about legal culture as both object and instrument of Sociology of law discipline.
The aim of the Workshop is to bring together internationally situated scholars from a diverse range of career stages and to draft a picture of current analytical approaches in the sociology of law by comparing and bridging them with other disciplines.
Our experience in Oñati
The workshop held recently at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law aimed to discuss the legal culture concept and its adequacy for empirical studies. It was an opportunity to gather scholars from different backgrounds and academic affiliations. During two days it was possible to discuss the concept according to three axes: 1 - legal theory and method, 2 - legal culture as a research system, 3 - legal culture in action. David Nelken was the keynote speaker and opened the workshop. His conference offered a broad view of the concept's development, its applicability, flaws, and potential to understand how law works in contemporary society. Caro Pennisi, the following speaker, stressed the theoretical foundations, methodological opportunities, and challenges for the sociology of law when applying the legal culture concept. Different perspectives of research and applicabilities of the concept were presented during the two days. Topics such as theoretical problems, legal reasoning, sentencing, organized crime, prisons, immigration, and the media were discussed. The workshop was an opportunity to strengthen ties among researchers and to create new ones. As a consequence of the workshop, a special number for Oñati Socio-Legal series is expected to appear in the future. Due to the pandemics, the meeting was held virtually with the full support and professionalism of the Oñati Institute staff. Lastly, it was a unique opportunity to launch new perspectives on the legal culture concept.