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Berlin, Germany

Special Topics: Law, Society, and Politics in Comparative Perspective

Global Temple Conference

Course Number: 
Semester(s) Offered: 
Summer 2019
Credit Hours: 

Arranged each semester; please consult with the instructor.

Why take this course in Berlin?

This course explores theoretical and historical perspectives on the intersection of law, society and politics, and aims to foster discussion of contemporary issues among students from different cultures and disciplines. After an introduction to comparative law and legal culture, we read some classical social theorists (Durkheim, Weber and Marx), and consider their relevance to contemporary debates about morality, (dis)obedience, and conflict. Next, we investigate the role and operation of law in totalitarian settings such as Nazi and Communist Germany. Finally, we consider the difficulties that such legacies pose for democracy, the rule of law, and the economy in post-totalitarian societies. In this context, we examine the need for ‘transitional justice’, the relationship between law and the market, and the challenges posed by freedom of speech. Overall, the course aims to develop skills at using theory and history to inform debates on contemporary challenges, such as multiculturalism, punishment, (illegal) downloading/ streaming/file-sharing, and economic development. In addition to gaining substantive expertise in various socio- and politico-legal fields, students develop communicative competence through participatory exercises, and intercultural competence through discussion with other students. No prior knowledge of law or of social science is required; the only prerequisite is an open mind.


Professor Helen E. HartnellJuris Doctor (J.D.), was a faculty member at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco from 1997 until 2013. She was DAAD Guest Professor of Anglo-American Law at Freie Universität Berlin, Fulbright Visiting Professor at the University of Helsinki, and Visiting Scholar at the University of Cologne. Professor Hartnell has also taught at numerous other universities, including Tulane Law School and Harvard Law School. She teaches international economic law, European law, private international law, arbitration, commercial law, and courses offering a socio-legal perspective on law.

Special Notes: 

Repeatability: This course may be repeated for additional credit.