MSY101 | Law and Society

Course Information

  • 2023-24
  • MSY101
  • LL.M.
  • I
  • Nov 2023
  • Core Course

Course Rationale 

Michael Foucault alludes to two types of regulatory power in society: one is juridico-discursive power, and the other is disciplinary power. The juridico-discursive power rests with the law and its application. It is formal, written down, uniform, and defines what is criminalised or worthy of society’s disapproval. It is applied at once in a violent, top-down manner. By contrast, disciplinary power is exercised in schools, hospitals, or prisons and is concerned with maintaining discipline. Disciplinary power is concerned with ensuring that social norms and order are maintained in society. The presence of law and state power provides the context for disciplinary power to operate.

Law and Society is designed as a core course for LLM students in this background in order to introduce the diverse perspectives for studying law.  In this course, law is amongst other things, a product of state power which is constantly in the process of shaping its ‘citizens’. And as it does so, the citizens end up reshaping law. The interaction between law and the state’s subjects has never been a uniform one since all citizens do not enjoy the same status in society also because the state is not neutral or objective any more than the law is. This course will shed light on the complex nature of this relationship where law can become the vehicle of justice and rights for the citizens, as well as of violence. The state can become the ‘protector’ of local customs and practices as well as its ‘destroyer.’ Law can be the enabling force of both tendencies of the state.

The state’s subjects consequently negotiate their relationship with the state sometimes through the law, and sometimes without. While shedding light on the understanding of law as a derivation of state power, this course will also take the student through the ways in which the legal public have in turn shaped the legal space through a multiform range of interactions, conflicts, resolutions, and negotiations.

The course will be taught using interdisciplinary methods to pry open the complexities of these social interactions. Through this course we ask and attempt to answer the following questions: 1. How was the state’s subject formed historically through Colonial Law? 2. What kind of tensions does the everyday interaction between the state and its citizens produce? 3. What kind of political subjectivities are produced thereby?


Dr. V. S. Elizabeth

Professor of History