The Research Committee on Sociology of Law of the International Sociological Association Jubilee Ceremonial Conference

By Winczorek, Jan | Polish Sociological Review, October 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Research Committee on Sociology of Law of the International Sociological Association Jubilee Ceremonial Conference


Winczorek, Jan, Polish Sociological Review


University of Warsaw, October 19th-21st, 2012.

Second issue of the 1965 volume of principal sociological journal in Polish language, Studia Socjologiczne, carries a three-page piece by Adam Podgórecki, reporting on the 1964 conference of ISA's freshly established Research Committee on Sociology of Law. The report on the meeting, which was held in St. Vincent in Italy, communicates a number of points. First, it contains usual description of meeting's proceedings. Judging by space Podgórecki devotes to individual topics, the discussion focused on Italian "Milan justice project," included presentations of some other empirical studies and touched upon certain theoretical points. Second, the report gives many clues on ongoing organizational efforts within RCSL, particularly certain collaboration projects to be soon realized (some of which sadly never came to fruition). In this way, it clearly, even if inadvertently, reveals Podgórecki's contentment that sociology of law has eventually - thanks to his own efforts and efforts of many others - reached the stage of successful international institutionalization.

The third and final observation Podgórecki makes pertains to the future of RCSL as an organization and sociology of law as a practical science. In his view, in 1964 sociology of law had been on the rise both in terms of quantity of research and its quality. This, he believed, was a result of increased readiness of national governments to accept advice from legal sociologists. Podgórecki then expresses the conviction that sociology of law, having finally reached maturity as an academic endeavor, will be able to make a difference also in practical terms, convincing decision makers that it pays to "translate certain issues, which thus far have been solved by speculative means, to the language of empirically resolvable problems."

Half a century on, RCSLs Jubilee Ceremonial Conference, organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Committee's establishment, was hosted by Adam Podgórecki's home university, University of Warsaw. The event was memorable for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, broad - and somewhat unsurprising, given the milieu - presence of Podgórecki's legacy. First (which is probably most relevant to Polish members of RCSL), it is already the third time (after 1964 and 1999 annual conferences) that University of Warsaw helped organize RCSLs meeting. This demonstrates the continued contribution of Polish sociology of law - much of which still rests on Podgórecki's ideas - to the international community of socio-legal scholarship. Second, despite having principally (or as some would say: merely) ceremonial aims, the conference gathered more than 50 participants, and - in its scholarly part - initiated genuine and vivid academic discussion. This in turn shows that Podgórecki's, Evans', Treves' and others' efforts in establishing RCSL bore fruit. It also supports the conviction that Podgórecki's optimistic 1965 description of that organization still holds after it reached its 50th Jubilee: the Committee, with its varied activities, continues to animate the worldwide socio-legal community. Third, the academic program of the conference, apart from leaving sufficient space for reflections on RCSEs past and future, was devoted mostly to the discussion of contributions of socio-legal classics, Renato Treves, Leon Petrazycki and Adam Podgórecki.

The first day of the conference was devoted to recollections of RCSEs history and included speeches by Jacek Kurczewski, Jean van Houtte, Vincenzo Ferrari, Mavis Maclean, Anne Boigeol, Klaus Ziegert, Adam Czarnota, Jerzy Kwasniewski, and Stefka Naumova. While opening talk by Jean van Houtte summarized fifty years of Committee's history, other participants focused on more personal, first-hand experiences of their membership in RCSL. Many of them took the liberty to enrich the discussion by mentions of their professional relationships with earlier generations of socio-legal scholars. …

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