Law and State Power

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Thomas Poole


This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law and LLB in Laws. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

Course content


The course provides an opportunity to take a deep dive into the modern state. We investigate how the state organises and exercises power, and how such power is legitimated and controlled. At all times we remain alert to the pathologies of state power - corruption, mismanagement, capture by elites - and what might be done to prevent them. Classic themes surrounding law and state power - such as tensions between technocracy and democracy, bureaucratic rationality and charismatic authority, agency autonomy and political accountability - are given contemporary resonance by studying topical themes of importance, such as populism and illiberal democracy, and the politics of pandemic management.


Theories of power. The nature of the modern state. Law and government. Power and prerogative. Soft law: the role of policies and guidance in governance structures. Technocracy and democracy. Corruption and administration. The ‘contracting state’. Risk and the regulatory state. Crisis management. The legal control of state power. Administrative justice.


This course will have a minimum of two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term and Lent Term, in the form of a two hour seminar. This course includes a reading week in Weeks 6 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

Formative coursework

At least one formative essay per term.

Indicative reading

C. Harlow & R. Rawlings, Law and Administration (4th ed., 2021).


Online assessment (67%) in the ST
Essay (33%, 4000 words) in the ST

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2021/22: 12

Average class size 2021/22: 6

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills