Law and Society


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The law permeates our lives, shaping both our behavior and our sense of right and wrong, often in ways in which we are not aware. But, as law has a great impact on society, so too does society have a great impact on law. As law has an internal logic, represented by the reasoning of judicial opinions, so does it have an external logic, as it is affected by social and historical forces. The purpose of the law and society program is to provide an opportunity for students to study the impact of law on society and of society on law. We have come to understand in recent decades how law is a truly interdisciplinary area of study. A number of disciplines have something to contribute to our understanding of law. The law and society program seeks to provide an avenue to an understanding of law in this broader sense.

The law and society program offers an interdisciplinary minor.


If you'd like to view a full listing of our course options in law and society or any other subject, please visit the Online Course Catalogue.

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Requirements for the Minor

interdisciplinary, 6 courses

Three core courses, at least one in each category, and three electives. Of the six courses in the minor, at least two must be from the social sciences, two must be from the humanities, and no more than three may be in any one department. Courses in any of the core categories may also be taken as electives.


Our students choose from a variety of introductory and advanced courses, each designed to provide students with strong critical thinking and analytical skills.

Below you'll find a sampling of some of our most popular classes, as well as suggestions for making law and society a part of your larger interdisciplinary experience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

POL 335 Law and Society


Study the relationship between "law" and "society," including potential corrupt or "political" implications. Also, explore how law frames our perception of issues such as ownership and value, the problems of objectivity in interpretation, and conflicts between rights to free speech and private property. Then, continue to examine issues in American society in SOC 258 Social Problems.

PHIL 151 Crime and Punishment


Examine the relationship between moral responsibility and criminal responsibility, study some perennial problems in ethical theory, and explore which forms of behavior control are morally justifiable responses to which forms of social deviance. Next, take a look at how the criminal justice policy has changed over time by enrolling in POL 207 Governing Through Crime.

ECON 204 Business Law


Study of the basic law of contracts with emphasis on agency, negotiable instruments, property, and more. Also, examine the system of courts. Next, switch tracks and explore the ethical issues that arise in the practice of medicine by taking PHIL 156 Biomedical Ethics.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.