Whence Law?

  • Larry D. BarnettEmail author


This chapter advances the macrosociological thesis that society-level agents produce the doctrines of law that structurally complex, democratically governed nations employ for society-important social behaviors. After examining alternatives to a macrosociological approach, the chapter applies the thesis to five developments in U.S. federal law that have occurred since the middle of the twentieth century and provides data that portray the societal context of each development. Three of the five developments resulted from interpretations of the national Constitution by the U.S. Supreme Court, while two of the developments stemmed from legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. As to the former, the Supreme Court (1) concluded that the Constitution does not allow government to exempt all women from serving on juries; (2) held that the Constitution is violated by statutes that criminalize same-sex sexual activity and, in so holding, raised a question about the constitutionality of statutes that impose a criminal penalty for adultery; and (3) ruled on the circumstances in which government can constitutionally use the death penalty. As to legislation, Congress adopted (4) a statute to prohibit race-based discrimination in employment and (5) a statute to promote freedom of religion. Sociological agents that created differences between U.S. states in their law on the topics in (1) through (5) are studied in the second volume of the book.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Widener University Delaware Law SchoolWilmingtonUSA

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