• Marc Hertogh
Part of the Palgrave Socio-Legal Studies book series (PSLS)


Starting with a court case which provoked a wave of controversy, this study asks: how can we understand the erosion of legal legitimacy in cases like these? The chapter then discusses two different approaches to ‘legal consciousness’. The conventional (critical) approach focuses on why people—despite their criticism about the justice system—still turn to the law. It is argued that this approach has several important flaws. This study therefore follows an alternative (secular) approach and explores why people—because of their strong criticism—turn their back to law. The central narrative in this book is that the present public discontent with law and the justice system signals a process of ‘legal alienation’.


Legitimacy Legal consciousness Legal alienation Public discontent 


  1. Abel, R. (1980). Redirecting Social Studies of Law. Law & Society Review, 14(3), 805–829.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banakar, R., & Lort Phillips, A. (2014). Law, Community and the 2011 London Riots. In R. Nobles & D. Schiff (Eds.), Law, Society and Community: Socio-legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (pp. 167–185). Aldershot/Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  3. Bijl, R., et al. (Eds.). (2015). De Sociale Staat van Nederland 2015. Den Haag: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.Google Scholar
  4. Boere, R. (2014, November 24). Stoelgooier: Dit voelt voor ons als een diepe belediging. Algemeen Dagblad.Google Scholar
  5. Bonilla, Y., & Rosa, J. (2015). #Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42(1), 4–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brabants Dagblad. (2014, November 21). Vader uit Heesch furieus na uitspraak dodelijk ongeluk Meijel. Brabants Dagblad (with reader reactions).Google Scholar
  7. Brabants Dagblad. (2015, September 9). Emotionele verklaring moeder overleden Ize (2) tijdens rechtszaak verkeersdrama Meijel. Brabants Dagblad.Google Scholar
  8. Chua, L., & Engel, D. (2017). Legal Consciousness in the Twenty-First Century. Unpublished paper, Law & Society Association Annual Meeting, Mexico City, June 2017.Google Scholar
  9. Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J. (2009). Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cotterrell, R. (1992). The Sociology of Law: An Introduction (2nd ed.). London: Butterworths.Google Scholar
  11. Cowan, D. (2004). Legal Consciousness: Some Observations. The Modern Law Review, 67(6), 928–958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dogan, M. (2005). Erosion of Confidence in Thirty European Democracies. Comparative Sociology, 4(1), 11–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ehrlich, E. (1936). Fundamental Principles of the Sociology of Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Ellickson, R. (1991). Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Engel, D. (1998). How Does Law Matter in the Constitution of Legal Consciousness? In B. Garth & A. Sarat (Eds.), How Does Law Matter? (pp. 109–144). Chicago: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Engel, D., & Engel, J. (2010). Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ewick, P., & Silbey, S. (1998). The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Feeley, M. (1976). The Concept of Laws in Social Science: A Critique and Notes on an Expanded View. Law & Society Review, 10(4), 497–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friedman, L. (1975). The Legal System: A Social Science Perspective. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. Fritsvold, E. (2009). Under the Law: Legal Consciousness and Radical Environmental Activism. Law & Social Inquiry, 34(4), 799–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Galanter, M. (1974). Why the “Haves” Come Out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change. Law & Society Review, 9(1), 95–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Galanter, M. (1981). Justice in Many Rooms: Courts, Private Ordering, and Indigenous Law. The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 13(19), 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gallup. (2015). Trust in U.S. Judicial Branch Sinks to New Low of 53%. Available at:
  24. Gallup. (2016). Americans’ Confidence in Institutions Stays Low. Available at:
  25. Garcia-Villegas, M. (2003). Symbolic Power Without Violence? Critical Comments on Legal Consciousness Studies. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 16(4), 363–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gargarella, R. (2011). Penal Coercion in Contexts of Social Injustice. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 5(1), 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gemeente Amsterdam. (2016). Amsterdamse thermometer van de bereikbaarheid 2016. Gemeente Amsterdam. Available at:
  28. Genn, H. (1999). Paths to Justice: What People Do and Think About Going to Law. Oxford/Portland Oregon: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Halliday, S., & Morgan, B. (2013). I Fought The Law and The Law Won? Legal Consciousness and the Critical Imagination. Current Legal Problems, 66(1), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harding, R. (2010). Regulating Sexuality: Legal Consciousness in Lesbian and Gay Lives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Hertogh, M. (2004). A “European” Conception of Legal Consciousness: Rediscovering Eugen Ehrlich. Journal of Law and Society, 31(4), 457–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hertogh, M (Ed.). (2008). Living Law: Reconsidering Eugen Ehrlich [Oñati International Series in Law and Society]. Oxford: Hart Publishing.Google Scholar
  33. Hertogh, M. (2009). What’s in a Handshake? Legal Equality and Legal Consciousness in the Netherlands. Social & Legal Studies, 18(2), 221–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hertogh, M. (2011). Loyalists, Cynics and Outsiders. Who Are the Critics of the Justice System in the UK and the Netherlands? International Journal of Law in Context, 7(1), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hertogh, M. (2012). Mind the (New) Gap: A Selective Survey of Current Law and Society Research in the Netherlands. International Journal of Law in Context, 8(1), 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hertogh, M. (2014). “No Justice, No Peace!” Conceptualizing Legal Alienation in the Aftermath of the Trayvon Martin Case. In R. Nobles & E. Schiff (Eds.), Law, Society and Community: Socio-legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (pp. 187–206). Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  37. Hertogh, M. (2015). What Moves Joe Driver? How Perceptions of Legitimacy Shape Regulatory Compliance Among Dutch Traffic Offenders. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 43(2), 214–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hertogh, M., & Kurkchiyan, M. (2016). “When Politics Comes into Play, Law Is No Longer Law”: Images of Collective Legal Consciousness in the UK, Poland and Bulgaria. International Journal of Law in Context, 12(4), 404–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hodge, Jones & Allen. (2015). Unjust Kingdom: UK Perceptions of the Legal and Justice System (Innovation in Law Report 2015). Available at:
  40. Hull, K. (2016). Legal Consciousness in Marginalized Groups: The Case of LGBT People. Law & Social Inquiry, 41(3), 551–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jackson, J., & Gau, J. (2016). Carving Up Concepts? Differentiating Between Trust and Legitimacy in Public Attitudes Towards Legal Authority. In E. Schockley, et al. (Eds.), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Trust: Towards Theoretical and Methodological Integration (pp. 49–69). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jurkowitz, M., & Vogt, N. (2013). On Twitter: Anger Greets the Zimmerman Verdict. Available at:
  43. Kalekin-Fishman, D., & Langman, L. (2015). Alienation: The Critique That Refuses to Disappear. Current Sociology, 63(6), 916–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lageson, S. (2017). Crime Data, the Internet, and Free Speech: An Evolving Legal Consciousness. Law & Society Review, 51(1), 8–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lee, A. (1972). An Obituary for “Alienation”. Social Problems, 20(1), 121–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Levine, K., & Mellema, V. (2001). Strategizing the Street: How Law Matters in the Lives of Women in the Street-Level Drug Economy. Law & Social Inquiry, 26(1), 169–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lovell, G. (2012a). This Is Not Civil Rights: Discovering Rights Talk in 1939 America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lovell, G. (2012b). The Myth of the Myth of Rights [Special issue: The Legacy of Stuart Scheingold]. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 59, 1–30.Google Scholar
  49. McCann, M. (2006). On Legal Rights Consciousness: A Challenging Analytical Tradition. In B. Fleury-Steiner & L. Nielsen (Eds.), The New Civil Rights Research: A Constitutive Approach (pp. ix–xxx). Aldershot/Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  50. Merry, S. (1990). Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness Among Working-Class Americans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  51. Moore, S. (1973). Law and Social Change: The Semi-autonomous Social Field as an Appropriate Subject of Study. Law & Society Review, 7(4), 719–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nagin, D., & Telep, C. (2017). Procedural Justice and Legal Compliance. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 13(5), 5–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nielsen, L. (2000). Situating Legal Consciousness: Experiences and Attitudes of Ordinary Citizens About Law and Street Harassment. Law & Society Review, 34(4), 1055–1090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Panorama. (2014, November 24). Vader ware internetheld na gooien van stoel naar rechter! Panorama. Available at:
  55. Perŝak, N., & Ŝtrus, J. (2016). Legitimacy and Trust-Related Issues of Judiciary: New Challenges for Europe. In N. Perŝak (Ed.), Legitimacy and Trust in Criminal Law, Policy and Justice: Norms, Procedures, Outcomes (pp. 89–110). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  56. Pew. (2013). Negative Views of Supreme Court at Record High, Driven by Republican Dissatisfaction. Available at:
  57. Quekel, S. (2014, November 24). Vader doodgereden meisje (2) uit Heesch gooit stoel naar rechter: “Ons leven is kapot”. Omroep Brabant. Available at:[VIDEO].aspx.
  58. Sarat, A. (1990). “The Law Is All Over”: Power, Resistance and the Legal Consciousness of the Welfare Poor. Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, 2(2), 343–379.Google Scholar
  59. Sarat, A. (2017, February 11). Americans Aren’t That Attached to Democracy As You Might Think. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  60. Sarat, A., & Kearns, T. (1993). Beyond the Great Divide: Forms of Legal Scholarship and Everyday Life. In A. Sarat & T. Kearns (Eds.), Law in Everyday Life (pp. 21–61). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  61. Seeman, M. (1975). Alienation Studies. Annual Review of Sociology, 1(1), 91–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sheehan, K. (2013). Marchers Take Over Times Square in Protest of Trayvon Martin Verdict. New York Post. Available at:
  63. Silbey, S. (2005). After Legal Consciousness. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 1, 323–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tankebe, J., & Liebling, A. (Eds.). (2013). Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: An International Exploration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (Eds.). (2010). Sage Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  66. Tyler, T. (1990). Why People Obey the Law. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Van den Hurk, M. (2014, November 24). Er is nog meer leed bijgekomen nu. Brabants Dagblad.Google Scholar
  68. Van Spanje, J., & De Vreese, C. (2013). De rechtspraak in de media: drie negatieve trends. In D. Broeders, et al. (Eds.), Speelruimte voor transparantere rechtspraak (WRR-verkenning 26) (pp. 413–446). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Young, K. (2014). Everyone Knows the Game: Legal Consciousness in the Hawaiian Cockfight. Law & Society Review, 48(3), 499–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zerrouk, Y. (2014, November 21). Verbijstering over werkstraf voor doodrijden meisje, opa en oma: “Waar gaat het heen in dit land?” Brabants Dagblad. Available at:,+opa+en+oma+Waar+gaat+het+heen+in+dit+land.aspx.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Socio-Legal Studies, Faculty of LawUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations