W T Murphy's book seeks to clarify some of the core issues in the relationship between law and society and to revise the way in which we think about the role of law. The author poses questions about the place and function of law in modern society, and asks how answers to such questions relate in turn to legal theory and socio-legal studies. He goes on to consider also what implications there might be for any future role for law.
The author takes issue with the general assumption that law is the solution to the problems of society. Instead, he presents in this book an argument that conventional ways of thinking about law in society, which he suggests are framed by hierarchical assumptions, need to be revised to give greater emphasis to what he thinks of as 'horizontal or parallel relations'. Some of the implications of this alternative view are addressed.
The author's approach to his analysis and argument is unashamedely eclectic, and he draws on the resources of a number of branches of learning beyond social theory, jurisprudence and sociology. This intellectual extraversion is a reflection of the author's view that in current thinking about the role of law conventional disciplinary frameworks are breaking down.
When the Oxford Socio-Legal Studies Series was relaunched, it was with the intention that it would broaden its intellectual scope by publishing theoretical as well as empirically-informed works of high quality. Like Roger Cotterrell's Law's Community, which has already appeared, and Brian Tamanaha's Realistic Socio-Legal Theory, W T Murphy's book engages with many of the important questions in the social theory of law.