Research Committees


Published in ISA Bulletin number 44, year 1987
Prepared by Kurt Jonassohn ISA Executive Secretary 1974-1982


The Sociology of Law has by now a long tradition in the field of historical and theoretical studies. In the field of empirical research, however, the discipline has developed more recently.

Although there are many examples of research in the sociology of law which were carried out between the First and Second World Wars, it can be said that only in the Post-War period, and especially in the last two decades, has this research taken a notable dimension in the USA (1950's and 1960's), in the Scandinavian countries and in other countries of Western and Eastern Europe.

It was precisely in consideration of the recent development of empirical research and the need to relate this research to the tradition of historical and theoretical studies that a group of well-known specialists in sociology proposed to the ISA to organize an informal session during the V World Congress of Sociology (Washington D.C., 1962). The proposal was accepted and the informal session took place in Washington on two consecutive days, presided by W. M. Evan (USA) and Adam Podgorecki (Poland).

At the end of the meeting it was voted to set up a Research Committee on Sociology of Law. The ISA Executive Committee acting on this recommendation decided to grant full Research Committee status to the newly founded group.

Executive and Members

In 1962 the group consisted of 16 persons, directed by the following board:

President Renato Treves (Italy)
Vice-President Adam Podgorecki (Poland)
Secretary William M. Evan (USA)

The other 13 members came from: USA (2), Denmark (1), France (1), FRG (1), Israel (1), Japan (1), Mexico (1), Norway (1), Sweden (1), UK (1), USSR (1) and Yugoslavia (1).

In 1963 there was an additional member from the Soviet Union, and in1964 a Hungarian member joined the Committee.

During the Research Committee meeting held in Varese (Italy) in September 1968 the reorganization of the Committee was decided upon. Two working groups were constituted, one located in Copenhagen presided by B. Kutschinski, for research on "Knowledge and Opinion about Law", and another in Milano presided by Renato Treves for "Documentation on Sociology of Law".

The Board of the Research Committee consisted of:

President Renato Treves (Italy)
Vice-President Adam Podgorecki (Poland)
Secretary William M. Evan (USA)
Members R. Apthorpe, Wilhem Aubert (Norway)
Richard D. Schwartz (USA)

At the VII World Congress of Sociology in Varna (1970), the Board invited Peter Vinke (The Netherlands) to form and preside a third working group on "Codification of Empirical Findings in the Sociology of Law".

Moreover, a council of advisers was appointed with the task to evaluate the membership of the Research Committee, and to organize its future scientific activities. 

Members of the Council were:

  • Brit-Mari Blegvad Persson (Denmark)
  • Maria Borucka-Arctowa (Poland)
  • Jan Glastra van Loon (The Netherlands)
  • V. Goldschmidt (Denmark)
  • Dimitri Kalogeropoulos (France)
  • V. P. Kasimirtschuk (USSR)
  • W. Kaupen (FRG)
  • T. Kawashima (Japan)
  • H. Klette (Sweden)
  • V. N. Kudriavtsev (USSR)
  • Kalmar Kulcsar (Hungary)
  • B. Kutschinsky (Denmark)
  • D. Mandic (Yugoslavia)
  • A. Pagani (Italy)
  • M. Rehbinder (FRG)
  • J. Skolnik (USA)
  • Jean van Houtte (Belgium)
  • Severin Carlos Versele (Belgium)
  • Peter Vinke (The Netherlands)

In 1969-70 the working group on "Knowledge and Opinion about Law" counted 23 members from 17 countries.

During a meeting held in 1971, 13 members were admitted to the Committee; they came from Poland (2), UK (2), Brazil (1), Canada (1), Finland (1), Italy (1), Japan (1), Spain (1), Sweden (1), USA (1) and USSR (1).

A new Board was elected by mail ballot in 1974. Based on article 3 of the Statutes of the Committee, the Board was formed by a President and 5 members, all elected by the Committee, and by associate members (former presidents of the Committee and the chairmen of the Committee's working groups).

The new Board was:

President Jan Glastra van Loon (The Netherlands)
Vice-Presidents Adam Podgorecki (Poland)
Jack Ladinsky (USA)
Secretary Jean van Houtte (Belgium)
Elected Members Colin M. Campbell (UK)
Jacek Kurczewski (Poland)
Jack Ladinsky (USA)
Richard Schwarts (USA)
Associate Members Wolfgang Kaupen (FRG) - Chairman of the Working Group on Knowledge and Opinions about Law (KOL)
Adam Podgorecki (Poland) - Chairman of the Working Group on Theoretical Hypotheses in Sociology of Law
Renato Treves (Italy) former President of the Research Committee and Chairman of the Working Group on "Documentation in Sociology of Law.

Adam Podgorecki continued as the Delegate to Research Council, and Renato Treves as the Alternate.

Between May and June 1978, new elections were held by mail ballot. 79 ballots were received, with the following results:

President Jan Glastra van Loon (The Netherlands)
Vice-Presidents Richard L. Abel (USA)
Colin M. Campbell (UK)
Secretary Jean van Houtte (Belgium)
Elected Members Vincenzo Ferrari (Italy)
Adam Podgorecki (Poland)
Associate Members Philip S. C. Lewis (UK) – Chairman of the Working Group on Legal Profession
Renato Treves (Italy) former President of the Research Committee and Chairman of the Working Group on Documentation in Sociology of Law.

In May 1980, Jan Glastra van Loon announced his resignation as president. This was accepted by the Board at the Madison meeting (USA) in June 1980. Jean van Houtte, Secretary General, served as acting president until 1982, when he was elected president.

The membership list, reported in 1980 to the Research Council of the ISA, included names of 191 persons coming from the following 33 countries: (USA) 45, England (23), Italy (21), FRG (16), The Netherlands (9), Canada (8), Poland (8), Belgium (6), France (6), Japan (6), USSR (5), Denmark (4), Spain (4), Sweden (4), India (4), Brazil (3), Norway (2), Yugoslavia (2), Argentina (1), Austria (1), Australia (1), Ecuador (1), Finland (1), Hungary (1), Kenya (1), Ireland (1), North Ireland (1), Nigeria (1), Philippines (1), Portugal (1), South Africa (1), Sri Lanka (1), Venezuela (1).

For the period 1982-1986 the following officers were elected on the Board:

President Jean van Houtte (Belgium)
Vice-Presidents R. Abel (USA)
Vincenzo Ferrari (Italy)
Secretary E. Blankenburg (The Netherlands)
Board Members A. J. Arnaud (France)
Adam Podgorecki (Canada)
P. Lewis (UK)
Renato Treves (Italy)

For the period 1986-1990 the Board of officers looks like follows:

President Jean van Houtte (Belgium)
Elected Members E. Blankenburg (The Netherlands)
Jacques Commaille (France)
William Evan (USA)
Alberto Febrajo (Italy)
V. Gessner (FRG)
Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Portugal)
Radi Vassilev-Radev (Bulgaria)
Associate Members Vincenzo Ferrari (Italy)
Terence Halliday (USA)
Adam Podgorecki (Canada)
Renato Treves (Italy)
Consultative Member J. S. Gandhi (India)


The Research Committee held its first meeting in the Castle of Chatillon, in St. Vicent (Italy) on September 9-13, 1964. This meeting was held jointly with the conference organized by the Centro Nazionale di Prevenzione e Difesa Soeiale. Its task was the discussion on the initial results of the large Research project on "The Administration of Justice and the Changing Italian Society". Nine members attended the meeting.

The second meeting was held in Warsaw, June 2-5, 1965 and was organized by Adam Podgorecki in collaboration with the Polish Sociological Association. Four papers were discussed there.

The meeting held during the VI World Congress of Sociology (Evian 1966), included the following activities of the Committee:

  • Reserved meetings on "Definition of Sociology of Law" (5 papers) and on "Comparative Problems" (3 papers)
  • Open meetings on "Empirical Research”: (I) in Scandinavia (6 papers), (II) in other countries (4 papers)
  • Round table on "Cross-National Research" where W. M. Evan presented his paper on "Sociological Almanac of Legal Systems"

On September 9-13, 1968 in Varese (Italy), the Centro Nazionale di Prevenzione e Difesa Sociale organized an international meeting on the Sociology of law: the First International Days on Sociology of Law, to discuss the latest results of the Italian Research on the administration of justice. The members of the Committee were invited to participate and some of them, particularly A. Podgorecki, O. Mandie and K. Swingmann contributed actively with interesting considerations of a comparative character.

On April 9-12, 1969 at the Centre de Sociologie du Droit et de la Justice de l'Université Libre de Bruxelles, took place an International Seminar on Sociology of Law and Opinion about Law, organized and presided by S. C. Versele, director of Research of the Institute of Sociology at the same University. The Committee gave its support to this initiative. 

During the seminar, the RC's most important contributions made by the Research group on Knowledge and Opinion about Law, which promoted a debate on the methodological and organizational problems connected with cross-national Research. 

The Working Group on Documentation in Sociology of Law presented a book "Nuovi Sviluppi della Sociologia del Diritto", edited by R. Treves, containing several contributions on the development of study and Research in different countries and a bibliography of about 300 items regarding publications of materials in the period considered (1966-67), followed by two bibliographical appendices dedicated to juridical anthropology and jurimetrics.

In Warsaw (Poland), October 27-29, 1969, took place a conference on Sociology of Moral and Law organized by Adam Podgorecki. Several members of the Committee participated and many contributions' were discussed.

At the VII World Congress of Sociology in Varna (1970), the Research Committee held 3 open and 2 closed meetings. Every open meeting was attended by about 100 experts and every paper submitted gave rise to several contributions and interesting debate.
Session 1: Social Engineering: the Function of Law as an Agent of Social Change (15 papers)
Session 2: Legal Agents of Social Change (13 papers)
Session 3: Public Opinion about Law and Legal Reforms (16 papers)

The Second International Symposium on Sociology of Law was held on September 17-19, 1971 in Varese (Italy). Theprogram was:
Open Session: Report by R. Treves
Session 1: Recent Findings in the Area of the Research on Knowledge and Opinion about Law Session 2: Sociology of Law for Legal Education
Session 3: The Role of the Jurist in Society

From the 18th through 21st of September 1972, the Committee held the Third International Symposium in the Netherlands, first in Nordwijk and then at the University of Leiden, Law Faculty, organized by Peter Vinke and having the following program:

Opening Session
Session 1: Legal and Sociological Education
Session 2: Anthropological versus Sociological Approach to Law
Session 3: The Position of the Legal System in Various Countries
Session 4: Research on Criminality
Session 5: Current and Possible Future Research
Session 6: Sociology of Law in Contemporary Society
More than 20 papers were presented and discussed at the Symposium.

The Fourth International Symposium was held in Cambridge (UK) on September 25-28, 1973 on "Access to the Legal System".

Sessions held during the VIII World Congress of Sociology (Toronto 1974) and a special session sponsored by the Centro di Prevenzione e Difesa Sociale dealt with the following themes:

A. Sessions of the Research Committee
Session 1: The Theory of Sociology of Law (8 papers)
Session 2: Organizational Theory, Effectiveness and the Law (6 papers)
Session 3: Comparative Study on Deviance, Violence and Conformity
Session 4: Judical Decision-Making and Alternatives (4 papers)

B. Special Session coordinated by Renato Treves: The Problem of Teaching Sociology of Law (3 papers)
The authors of these papers came from 10 countries: USA (8), FRG (2), Japan (2), Poland (2), USSR (2), Denmark (2), UK (1), Hungary (1), Norway (1), Spain (1).

A meeting in Tokyo, September 1-4, 1975. The Committee in collaboration with the Japanese Organizing Committee, chaired by Takeyoshi Kawashima, organized a symposium on "Theory in the Sociology of Law". 

The themes were:

  1. Theory in the Sociology of Law (15 papers)
  2. Law in Modern Japan (7 papers)
  3. Law in Developing Societies (8 papers)

There were 57 participants from Japan (31), USA (5), FRG (3), Poland (3), UK (3), USSR (3), Belgium (1), Finland (1), The Netherlands (1), Hungary (1), India (1), Kenya (1), Norway (1), Sri Lanka (1) and the United Arab Republic (1).

A conference on "Sociology of Law and Legal Sciences" was held in Balatonszeplak (Hungary) on September 26-29, 1976. There were sessions on Documentation in the Field of Sociology of Law, The Teaching of Sociology of Law, Knowledge and Opinions about Law. Another main topic was Law and Economic Order.

A meeting of the Research Committee held in Saarbrücken on September 5-8, 1977. The theme of the conference was "The Impact of the Research in the Sociology of Law on Government Action". The Special Research Section in Theory and Sociology of Law in the Law and Economics Faculty of Saarland University were the hosts. There were more than 100 participants from 16 countries.

During the IX World Congress of Sociology held in Uppsala (1978), the Committee organized the following sessions:

Session 1: Major Theoretical Issues in Sociology of Law (6 papers)
Session 2 (jointly with the Research Committees on Sociotechnics and Deviance and Social Control: Evaluation of Crime Prevention Problems
Session 3: Legal Professions (2 papers)
Session 4: "Traditional" versus "Modern" Legal Systems (7 papers)
Session 5: Family Law (11 papers)
Session 6: Changing Conceptions of the State (3 papers)
Session 7: Research in Progress (8 papers)

The authors of these 42 papers came from 16 countries: Italy (9), USA (5), Belgium (4), FRG (4), UK (3), Japan (3), Poland (3), Australia (2), Denmark (2), Canada (1), France (1), India (1), Kenya (1), Sweden (1), Switzerland (1), Yugoslavia (1).

The annual Conference for 1979 was organized in Cagliari (Italy) on 19-22 September. There were sessions on the following topics:
Session 1: Law, State and Political Power
Session 2: The Family and the Law
Session 3: Legal Profession
Session 4: Law and Dispute Treatment
Session 5: Research in Progress
Session 6: Documentation

The Committee and the Law and Society Association (USA) sponsored a joint meeting at the University of Madison, Wisconsin (USA) on June 5-8, 1980. It was based on 6 groups of 8 or 9 parallel panels, where 186 papers were presented. 

The authors came from the following countries: US (131), UK (10), Canada (9), Australia (4), FRG (4), Belgium (3), India (3), Japan (3), Nigeria (3), Yugoslavia (2), Colombia (1), Denmark (1), France (1), Malaysia (1), Mexico (1), The Netherlands (1), New Guinea (1), Peru (1), Poland (1), South Africa (1), Venezuela (1), United Arab Republic (1), Belgium (1), and Australia (1).

Jean Van Houtte participated in the 2nd International Congress of Legal Science organized by the International Centre of Legal Science in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) on September 7-12, 1980. The theme of the Congress was "The Working of Law in Society, Nationally and Internationally" and Jean van Houtte assisted in his role of a member of the Board of the Research Committee.

A meeting of the Committee was organized in Oxford (UK) on September 24-27, 1981, in collaboration with the Center for Legal Studies (Wolfson College). Four workshops were on the program:

  1. Law and Economy
  2. Interactionist Analysis of Legal Processes (both civil and criminal)
  3. Language Use in Legal Settings
  4. Labor Law and Industrial Relations

Special sessions were organized concerning research in progress.

In Mexico City during the X World Congress of Sociology (1982) seven sessions were coordinated by Jean van Houtte:
Session 1: Theory and Methodology in Sociology of Law
Session 2: Legal Systems and Social Systems
Session 3: Legal Professions
Session 4: Law in Action
Session 5: Dispute Institutions
Session 6: Law and Social Change in Latin America
Session 7: Research in Progress

The average number of persons attending the sessions was about 60. The session on "Law and Social Change in Latin America" was attended by more than 100 persons.

From September 7-10, 1983 at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, the Committee held a meeting in which 110 scholars participated. The topics of the sessions were:

  • Litigation research: legal aid costs and benefits of government by regulation
  • Family law
  • Legal anthropology
  • Beyond formal justice
  • Law, economic order and industrial relations
  • Current sociology of law in Italy, Japan and Argentina
  • Legal profession
  • European Institute of Sociology of Law

Most papers were published prior to the meeting by the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Law, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

In August 1985 a successful meeting on fundamental issues of sociology of law under the title "Les fondements scientifiques de la sociologie de droit / Scientific foundations of sociology of law", was held by the Committee in Aix-en-Provence (France). 

About 250 participants attended plenary meetings as well as various workshops.
Several items of the Committee's activities were discussed as well:

  • A report on the activities of the Working Group on Social and Legal Systems, prepared by Adam Podgorecki (Canada), informed the Board about the forthcoming publication of the group as well as about its continuing meetings and activities.
  • The Research Committee's Working Group on Legal Professions has completed a comparative survey to be published in 2 volumes by the University of California Press. Philip Lewis, a chairman of the Working Group, upon accomplishing this successful survey, has left the chairmanship to Terence Halliday 8USA).
  • A new Working Group on Legal Culture Comparisons was established under the chairmanship of Erhard Blankneburg (The Netherlands). The group is primarily concentrating on the indicator comparisons, over time and between countries, of the use of litigation in courts.
  • A Working Group on International Inquiry into the Development of Sociology of Law will be coordinating a documentation to be published within two years. Chairman: Vincenzo Ferrari (Italy).
  • Vincenzo Ferrari took over from Renato Treves the responsibility of editing documentation of the work of the Research Committee in Sociologia del Diritto.

At the XI World Congress of Sociology (New Delhi 1986) various sessions were coordinated by Erhard Blankenburg (The Netherlands):
Session 1: Oppressive Social and Legal Systems- Hidden and Manifest Forms
Session 2: Comparative Studies of Legal Profession
Session 3: Research in Progress
Session 4: International Inquiry into the Development of Sociology of Law
Session 5: Research in Progress
Session 6 organized by the Institute of Sociology of Law for Europe: Economic and Social Change and the Law

A special post-Congress seminar on Law and Social Change took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.


  • Davy, Georges: Droit et Changement Social. In Transactions of the Third World Congress of Sociology, vol. 1, ISA, 1956.
  • Friedman, Wolfgang G.: Sociology of Law. A Trend Report and Bibliography.Current Sociology, vol. X/XI, no. 1 (1961-62).
  • Treves, Renato (ed): Qudreni di Sociologia, September 1965. Special issue devoted to Sociology of Law, presented as a publication of the Committee. It contained 7 papers (in Italian) and news on research, meetings and conferences on Sociology of Law held in different European and American countries.
  • Persoon Blegvad, B.M. (ed): Contribution to the Sociology of Law. In Acta Sociologica – Scandinavian Review of Sociology, no. 1-2, 1966. Papers of the Scandinavian group presented later at the World Congress of Sociology in Evian.
  • Treves, Renato (ed): La Sociologia Del Diritto: Problemi e Ricerche, Edizione di Comunitá, Milan 1966. Contains 12 essays discussing development of sociology of law in different countries.
  • Treves, Renato and Glastra van Loon (eds): Norms and Actions. National Reports on Sociology of Law, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 196B. English edition of "La Sociologia Del Diritto".
  • Treves, Renato (ed): Nuovi Svi luppi della Sociologia del Diritto, Edizione di Comunitá, Milan 1968. Refers to the period 1966-67 and contains several contributions on the development of study and research in different countries and a bibliography of about 300 items regarding publications of materials in the period considered, followed by two bibliographical appendices dedicated to juridical anthropology and jurimetrics.
  • Transactions of the Sixth World Congress of Sociology, vol. IV. It contains 2 papers of the Committee.
  • Versele, S.C. (ed): Actes du Colloqie International de Sociologie du Droit et de la Justice, in: Revue de l'Institut de Sociologie, 4, 1969, BrusseIs.
  • Pocar, Valerio and Mario G. Losano: Sociology of Law 1960-1970. A Bibliographical Survey with KWIC-Index, ISA Research Group for Documentation on Sociology of Law, Instituto di Filosofia e Sociologia del Diritto, Universita di Milano. Presented at the VII World Congress of Sociology in Varna, 1970.
  • Transactions of the Seventh World Congress of Sociology, vol. IV, 1970. It contains 2 papers of the Research Committee.
  • Kaupen, Wolfgang: Directory of Sociologists of Law. An International Survey, Peter Vinke, 1972.
  • Rehbinder, Manfred, with cooperation of G. C. Landon: Sociology of Law. A trend Report and Bibliography. Current Sociology vol. XX, no. 3, 1972.
  • Blegvad, B.M., C.M. Campbell and C. J. Schuyt (eds): European Yearbook in Law and Sociology 1977, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1977. Belongs to the series "European Studies in Law and Sociology" established under the program of the Institute of Sociology of Law for Europe, and set up in collaboration with the Research Committee.

The Research Committee does not publish a separate newsletter. Instead, it publishes Documentation as part of Sociologia del Diritto which appears twice a year. 

Documentation includes not only reports on meetings, but also brief reports on the sociology of law in various countries together with bibliographies and summaries of articles. 

In 1980 the Research Committee announced that publication would in future appear once a year.