LL4CM      Half Unit
Law in the Economy

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andrew Lang NAB6.19


This course is available on the MSc in Law and Accounting, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation and Master of Laws. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Legal regimes of market regulation are based on particular ideas about the nature of 'markets': what markets are, how they arise, what forms they take, and what dynamics they exhibit. As our ideas about the nature of markets have evolved over the course of the last two centuries, the way we govern the market through law has evolved with them. In the period since the global financial crisis of 2007, we are currently living through another period of ideational change, as mainstream ways of thinking about markets have been discredited and policy-makers look explicitly for new and better ways of understanding how markets work and what they are.

The aim of this course is to enable students to engage with this intellectual moment, by introducing them in a systematic way to the major competing traditions of thought about the nature of markets, with particular attention to the question of the relationship between markets and law, and the proper purposes to which law should be deployed in economic life. In what sense are markets 'spontaneous' social forms, and to what extent do they rely on the prior creation of complex legal and other institutions? Are economic actors naturally ‘rational’ or do they have to be taught to be rational, and if so how? What is the role of social networks and social norms in shaping the dynamics of markets, and what can that teach us about the proper forms of law in the market?

Students will be introduced to a wide variety of economic schools of thought from the early 20th century onwards, including mainstream neoclassical economics, behavioural economics, institutional economics, new institutional economics, as well as varieties of economic sociology and economic anthropology. We will consider the reception of these schools of thought within legal scholarship, from the legal realists, to law and economics. The focus will be on canonical texts from across the spectrum, drawing from writers such as Hayek, Polanyi, Friedman, North, Bourdieu, Foucault, Hale, Veblen, Knight, Callon and many others. The course will therefore involve close engagement with core theoretical texts, but care will be taken to ground the discussion of such texts with illustrations taken from contemporary spheres of regulation. These are likely to change from year to year.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Granovetter, Mark, ‘Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness’ (1985) 91(3) American Journal of Sociology 481-510

Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944)

Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)

North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (1990)

 Akerloff and Schiller, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism (Princeton, 2008)

Cooter and Ulen, Law and Economics (latest edition)

Callon (ed), The Laws of Markets (Blackwell, 1998)

Lauren B. Edelman and Robin Stryker, “A Sociological Approach to Law and the Economy,” in The Handbook of Economic Sociology, 2nd ed. (2005), 527–551

Hall and Soskice (eds) Varieties of Capitalism. The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (2001)

Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale, 2008)

Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics (2004)

Coase, ‘The Problem of Social Cost’ (1960) 3 Journal of Law and Economics 1

Robert L. Hale, “Coercion and Distribution in a Supposedly Non-Coercive State,” (1923) 38(3) Political Science Quarterly 470–494


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2014/15: 23

Average class size 2014/15: 23

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication