Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Email: w.t.murphy@lse.ac.uk
Administrative support: Bradley Barlow

Tim Murphy was born in Nottingham and educated at Nottingham High School and Downing College, Cambridge. He taught at Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Kent at Canterbury before joining LSE in 1978, where he has been Professor of Law since 1999. He has also taught numerous courses for the WEA and the TUC. From 1992-1995 he served as Dean of the Graduate School at LSE. He was General Editor of the Modern Law Review from 1995 to 2002 and is a founder member of the Editorial Board of Law and Critique. In recent years he has served at LSE as Chairman of the Graduate School Committee and Vice-Chairman of the School’s Appointments Committee and took up the post of Deputy Director in September 2005.

see also Tim Murphy's LSE Experts page

Research Interests

Current research interests are in the fields of law and social theory; the history and theory of heritage; and law and governance in China.

External Activities
  • Tim Murphy has travelled and lectured extensively abroad, most recently in China, Viet Nam, South Korea and India.

  • He has edited (with Lord Wedderburn) Labour Law and the Community (1982) and (with Simon Roberts) Legal Scholarship in the Common Law World (50th Anniversary Number, Modern Law Review, 1987). He also has written numerous book reviews and review articles for the Modern Law Review, the British Journal of Sociology, and the Journal of Law and Society.


Murphy, Roberts & Flessas, Understanding Property Law, 4th Edition (Sweet & Maxwell 2004)

Understanding Property Law provides a background to an area of law which is notoriously inaccessible. Standing back from their subject, the authors of this book elucidate how the practices of the past have shaped the development and form of the modern law. In doing so they stress the role of lawyers in the transactions - such as sale, gift and inheritance - in which their clients become involved. This focus upon the work which lawyers do in their offices provides a necessary complement to the emphasis on legislation and adjudication found in most textbooks.

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The Oldest Social Science: Configurations of Law and Modernity (OUP, 1997)

This book looks critically at some of the underlying assumptions which shape our current understanding of the role and purpose of law and society. It focuses on adjudication as a social practice and as a set of governmental techniques. From this vantage point, it explores how the relationship between law, government and society has changed in the course of history in significant ways. At the centre of the argument is the elaboration of the notion of `adjudicative government'. From this perspective it is argued that the relationship between law and society must be conceived in a different way in the era of economics, sociology and statistics. The impact of these disciplines both constitutes `modernity' and unfolds a different role for law. The author argues that the traditional vision of the role of law, rooted in a complex set of hierarchical assumptions, is no longer adequate.

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Selected articles
and chapters in books

(with Xu, Ting) 'The city as laboratory and the urban-rural divide: the revival of private property and its limits in urban China' (2008) China perspectives, 4 . pp. 26-34

This paper focuses on the revival of private property and its limits in urban China. It explores the emergence of urban property markets; urban property-holding in relation to the complexity of urban governance; “minor property rights apartments” that form a de facto real estate market and cross over the urban-rural divide; the “grey areas” of blurring legal and administrative boundaries in modern China; and recent changes to the rural land system and the rural-urban divide. The conclusion flags the theme of the city as laboratory with regard to the blurring legal and governmental urban-rural distinction.

'From Subject to System: Some unsystematic systems-theoretic thoughts on Race Equality and Human Rights' in Michael King and Chris Thornhill, ed, Luhmann on Law and Politics: Critical Appraisals and Applications (Hart, 2006) 55-74 (Spanish translation of the chapter to appear shortly)

Luhmann on Law and Politics - cover

Perhaps more than any other social theorist in recent history, Niklas Luhmann's work has aroused extreme, and often antagonistic, responses. It has generated controversies about its political implications, its resolute anti-humanism and its ambitious critique of more established definitions of society, social theory and sociology. Now, however, a steadily growing number of scholars working in many different disciplines have begun to use aspects of Luhmann's sociology as an important methodological stimulus and as a theoretical framework for reorientating their studies. This collection of essays includes critical and reconstructive contributions by a number of distinguished social theorists, political theorists, legal scholars and empirical sociologists. Together, they provide evidence of Luhmann's extensive and diverse relevance to the issues facing contemporary society, and, at the same time, they enhance our understanding of the challenges posed by his theoretical paradigm to more traditional conceptions of social theory.

“Theory in Practice in a Global Age: : What Legal Theory Can and Cannot Do” was published in Law in the Global Age and the Future of Korean Law (Korea University 2005) and a revised version will appear in the Socio-Legal Review, (National Law School of India at Bangalore) in 2006.

“Durkheim in China”, in Michael Freeman, ed, Law and Sociology (OUP 2006) 107-118

Law and Sociology - cover

Law and Sociology contains a broad range of essays by scholars interested in the interactions between law and sociology. In common with earlier volumes in the Current Legal Issues series, it seeks both a theoretical and methodological focus.

The volume includes amongst other topics, a sociology of jurisprudence, an examination of the social dynamics of regulatory interactions, and a consideration of the place of legal culture in the sociology of law.

“Legal fabrications and the case of "Cultural Property” in Alain Pottage and Martha Mundy, ed, Law Anthropology and the Constitution of the Social (CUP, 2004) 115-141

Law Anthrpology - cover

This collection of interdisciplinary essays explores how persons and things - the central elements of the social - are fabricated by legal rituals and institutions. The contributors, legal and anthropological theorists alike, focus on a set of specific institutional and ethnographic contexts, and some unexpected and thought-provoking analogies emerge from this intellectual encounter between law and anthropology. For example, contemporary anxieties about the legal status of the biotechnological body seem to resonate with the questions addressed by ancient Roman law in its treatment of dead bodies. The analogy between copyright and the transmission of intangible designs in Melanesia suddenly makes western images of authorship seem quite unfamiliar. A comparison between law and laboratory science presents the production of legal artefacts in new light. These studies are of particular relevance at a time when law, faced with the inventiveness of biotechnology, finds it increasingly difficult to draw the line between persons and things.

“Include me Out” 29 Journal of Law and Society (2002) 342-354

"Law, history of its relation to the social sciences" [for International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Oxford: Elsevier Science, 2001) ed. Neil Smelser and Paul Baltes]

"Modernising Justice Inside "UK plc : Mimesis, De-differentiation and Colonisation" (in David Nelken and Jiri Priban, ed, Law’s New Boundaries (Ashgate, 2001) 218-248

“Postmodernism: legal theory, legal education and the future” (2000) 7 International Journal of the Legal Professions 357-379