Sociologists define the law as a social institution — one that structures social life as it is itself structured and informed by the social. As such, the law is not free from the influence of larger forces like history, culture, and the political economy nor are we free from it. Our actions, identities, bodies, and relations are organized by legal categories and practices. The analysis of the way the law shapes and is shaped by social life is, in large part, what distinguishes the sociology of law from other ways of thinking about legal ideologies and systems. The first part of the course will consider the purpose of the law and examine how legal systems evolve and change. Such questions have been crucial for social theorists and we will spend a good bit of time wrestling with the ideas of key classical thinkers like Durkheim, Marx, and Weber, and more contemporary theorists like Bell, Foucault, MacKinnon, and Crenshaw. Throughout the course, we will consider the relationship between law and social inequality, with a focus on race and gender. In democratic societies, a central project of the law is to abrogate and remedy past and current forms of social inequality. In actual practice, the law occupies a more ambiguous position. It is a tool wielded by social elites to protect their position and advance their interests. At the same time, the law is a device used by marginalized groups to challenge and undermine oppressive social arrangements. We will consider these dueling aspects of the law as we analyze such topics as American slavery jurisprudence, citizenship, police use of force, self defense, abortion, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.