The relationship between law and social change

There is a close relationship between law and social change. However, the importance of law in the process of social change is great. In fact, the process of social change would be useless in the absence of the law; which facilitates the social change as well as the maintenance of a unified progression in the society. It would seem extremely impossible for individuals to protect themselves against negative impacts of the process of social relationships. The relevance of the law in the different social institutions is seen through such actions as assurance of individual and corporate security, establishment of individual, corporate and national foundations towards prosperity. A society’s progressive change of its governance has only one source of empowerment: the law. Even in the presence of all the crucial requirements of the social change, absence of relevant legislation to sustain the social change makes the social change unachievable. Actually, the law creates a strong, unshakable, and long enduring framework that preserves the social change in the rightful values, norms and practices eventually upholding the intentions of the social change. Therefore, for sustainable social change process to be realized in the society, law has to take supremacy and lead the whole process.

The operation of law and sustained social change process                      

Every society aspires to incorporate certain aspects that improve the lives of its members. Therefore, there is need to embrace a progressive alteration of certain practices and disregard of some others that seem useless or non-beneficial (Macklem, 2006). The process also requires that new ways of life be embraced by the members of the society. The change and counter change process can be faced with extreme challenges as well as opposition. For instance, if a certain practice is to be eradicated from the society, it is obvious that it would meet much opposition from the people. The opposition does not even regard that the move is meant for the benefits of the masses. In such a situation, it is only through enactment of a certain legislation governing the change that success can be achieved. The need to establish a progressive change in the social set up thus emphasis on the relevance of the law in the establishment of the change. It is a matter of crucial requirement that all the actions of the society are governed by certain known legislation (Toope, 2007). The major significance of the law is therefore the establishment of a unified and cohesive society that favors and incorporates new aspects of the law through a set procedure. The various issues that exist in the society need to be put under careful considerations when determining the actions to be undertaken in the society. Depending on the issues under consideration, it is imperative that all the necessary measures are considered when analyzing the actions to be undertaken in the society.

Countless changes are addressed and established through the operations of the law. The changes range from the local actions such as healthcare within the society, policies on homelessness within the society to such high level undertakings such establishment of the national and international rights and freedoms of individuals. Therefore, the need for a systematic application and maintenance of the best practices in the society is strongly rooted in the legislations established to govern the said changes. Perhaps the nature of the nature of social change is to blame for its failure in the absence of relevant legislations. In fact, the process of social change has been viewed as being highly effective in establishment of the practices (Button, 2002). This demonstrates the relevance of the law in the issues associated with the establishment of change within the society. The pursuit of a unique system that favors continuous progress of the society thus flows from the underpinnings of the law in support of the social norms and practices. The legal strongholds uphold the practices in the society eventually making the realization of the social change a possibility. The positive and negative impacts associated with the establishment of a social change need to be put under reasonable balance. The significance of the action plans establishes the needs of the respective social norm and change. The regard attributed to the law in the relation to the establishment a system that favors the establishment of a unique system that governs the social practices is comes for the established legislations. The maintenance of unique approaches necessary for the establishment of social fairness in the society in relation to the different practices originates from the provisions of the law (Vago, 1999). The norms and societal practices need to be established under strong forces of the legal frameworks. The need for a systematic formation of the social set-ups prompts the establishment of strong relationships between the law and the social change. Some great legal thinkers have delved into some aspects of the considerations that need not be dismissed as far as the maintenance of social change process is concerned.  For instance, Ronald Dworkin, a renowned legal thinker espouses a view, hegemonic in nature, on the role played by the law in the western societies.

A structural functionalist perspective in regard to the operation of the law towards the establishment of a social change process touches on certain aspects of the social requirements. The structural functionalist perspective towards the social change views the evolutionary model of the law as custom to the diverse aspects associated with the establishment of the social change (Feng, 2003). The differentiation of the social change in relation to the establishment of the law as an agent of the maintenance of the social change process is closely linked with the societal customs. There law is a subject of custom and the eventual benefits related to the establishment of the coordination of diverse aspects of the customary practices. However, the law is not simply a reflection of custom and practices. The structural functionalist perspective also recognizes the fact that the law lags in time resulting to the translation effects regarding the process off social change. Similarly, Marx argued against the function of the law in social change. For Marx, those in power used the law to ensure that the all changes that are necessary for the maintaining social change are observed. The conflict also regarded law as being a tool used in the maintaining the power provided by the same law. The conflict therefore arose from the relationship between the ruling power and their use of law to remain in control.

The structural functionalist perspective has some specific attributes that touch on the importance of specific requirements of the law. However, the arguments represented about the importance of the law do not mean total solution to the problems within the social contexts. I fact, a total focus on the law as the being above every other force creates a society that is only held by the law (Shorn & Anleu, 2001). Serious negative impacts would thus be experienced if the law became irrelevant or stopped from being applied. The society has other potential ways of ensuring it’s continue existence even when the laws fail; this should be addressed. Similarly, the law empowers only those in authority to use it and attain their needs; in the name of benefiting the society. This is a critical aspect as it may put the society in dangerous situations with full control of a few minorities.

In spite of the conflicts that have been raised by different legal exerts pertaining to the importance of the law in social change, there are benefits that obviously have been witnessed through application of the law. There are court cases that have originated from the need for a social change. A goof example of the court case is the Suave v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) (Sauvé v. Canada, 2002). In the case, s. 51(e) was challenged as infringing on the rights and freedoms of the citizens to participate in the elections; a social change process. The importance of the law is to ensure that a just society is maintained (Toope, 2007). This ideal society should not have any characteristic of unfairness ion relation to the provision of the important freedoms of individuals within the society. It we look at the effects of the law in promoting the process social change, it is true that all the action undertaken by people are protected and governed by the law. Hence, the infringement of the rights of the individuals by sections of the same law creates some form of confusion. However, the most important thing for the people involved in the process of the change applies the available law in determining the suitable under the law. The application of the rights outlined in the international covenant on social, economic as well as cultural rights focuses on protecting interests such as social security, work and health. Social policy programs are applied in consideration of the benefits associated with the social change facilitated by the law. From the structural functionalist perspective, the function of the law is shown as somewhat low in the case of Suave v. Canada (2002). While the section 3 of the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms recognizes the need for the all people to participate in the democratic processes, there are laws that also dismiss the whole idea.


Thus the law acts in two different ways by focusing on the benefits of the legal processes and the establishment of the social changes.  The process of social change is therefore enabled by the presence of the law, which provides a long lasting guidance on all the actions undertaken. The importance of the law in relation to the process of social change is therefore crucial. All actions undertaken in the process of establishing a certain practice in the society is governed by the law. In essence, all the actions undertaken relating to the practice of social change relies on the law. This therefore implies that there cannot be success in the establishment of social change without the existence of the law.



Button, J. (2002). Exploring the relationship between law and social issues. Sage publishers.

Feng, H. (2003). The relationship between Social norms and the Law- From the perspective of economic cost. North Group Publishers.

Macklem, P. (2006). Social Rights in Canada. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications

Sauvé V. Canada. (2002). The Judgments of the supreme court of Canada. Chief Electoral Office Publication.

Shorn, L. & Anleu, R. (2001).  Law and social change. Sage publishers.

Toope, J. S. (2007). Law, Education and social change. The University of British Columbia; Lawyers’ Rights watch committee.

Vago, S. (1999). Law and society. Dominguez Hills: California State University press.




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