Does the law recognize legal socialization?

Benjamin Justice, Tracey Meares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Since its emergence as a coherent field of study a half century ago, legal socialization has moved to the forefront of conversations about legal reform across multiple fields. Amidst all this work, however, there is surprisingly little scholarship on an obvious, but understudied question: Does the law itself recognize legal socialization? Knowing whether, and how, American law recognizes its need to legally socialize the citizenry toward democratic norms is a critical step for bridging the divide between legal socialization scholarship and social policy reform. For this essay, we consider all 50 state constitutions, including all previous versions. Our analysis focuses on several specific areas where the text explicitly or implicitly addresses the law as a socializing agent. What we find is a diverse landscape of state law that ranges from silence to indirect and direct endorsement of legal socialization as a purpose of law, an obligation of the state, and a right of the individual citizen. Yet we also find that these acknowledgments are complex and at times contradictory, reflecting deep fissures between the law's commitments to democratic republicanism and its anti-democratic commitments to the maintenance of privilege and overt oppression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-483
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • civic engagement
  • criminal justice
  • legal processes


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