JSP “Core”

The “Core” of Jurisprudence and Social Policy

Study in the JSP Program, as in graduate programs more generally, often involves increasingly specialist forms of training and expertise, leading to the dissertation project. But the JSP Program – as part of its commitment to the multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary study of law – also expects its students to consider general issues and a basic literature in the philosophical and social study of the law. In earlier versions of the JSP Program statement this expectation was expressed in the requirement that students master “the general issues and the basic literature that constitute the ‘core’ of Jurisprudence and Social Policy”.

In part, the “core” of JSP denotes something of a multi-disciplinary breadth requirement. In completing the required three “foundation” courses, students receive a substantial introduction to several of the leading disciplinary approaches to the study of law and society. In preparing their topical fields of specialization, students further develop their understanding of how different disciplinary perspectives and methodologies have been brought to bear on particular areas of law and social policy.

The “core” of JSP additionally signals the Program’s aspiration that students consider how different disciplinary approaches might be usefully synthesized in law-related research, and examine critically the strengths and limits of any particular perspective on law and legal institutions. Obviously, no JSP student (or senior scholar) can be expected to master all the possible disciplinary approaches to law, or the abundant literature in the study of law-and-society. But JSP students are expected to recognize something of the cumulative range of questions and issues concerning law which have been explored in distinct disciplinary settings and scholarly traditions. And they are expected to consider how their own specialized dissertation project relates to this broader range of scholarly inquiries. Part of the JSP qualifying exam is devoted to an examination of this general, multi-disciplinary competence.

Members of the JSP faculty have produced various statements or outlines of this “core” material in the philosophical and social study of law. Earlier versions of the JSP Program Statement contained a brief topical summary of the JSP “core”, organized under sections on law and justice; the legal process; major forms of legal ordering; and comparative and historical perspectives. More recently, Professor Philip Selznick composed a lengthier and more ambitious statement of the core that organizes its materials in terms of the themes and issues that are typically addressed in the major contributions to law-related scholarship. Other discussions, such as the symposium on the JSP Program published in the California Law Review (Volume 68, no. 2, March 1980), usefully supplement these summaries.

Students will find it helpful to consult these materials at various stages of their training; when, for example, choosing disciplinary fields, or preparing for the qualifying exam. Copies of these documents are available for distribution from the Student Affairs Officer.