We the People.
Program Overview

Law and Society

Study the legal and policy underpinnings of collective life.

Photo credit: Michael Hartman

Where Theoretical Concerns Meet Practical Applications

Law frames the way we live as a society. It helps to resolve socially contentious issues while guiding those policies that affect our social institutions and relationships. Society in turn, plays a role in how we make, interpret and experience the law and related social policies and practices. The Law and Society Program at Oberlin examines this dynamic relationship from a liberal arts perspective to prepare students to pursue a law degree or work in law-adjacent fields, whether as policy advocates, journalists or educators. 

Chart Your Own Integrated Pathway

The law and society major at Oberlin allows students to pursue their own curricular and cocurricular interests within a flexible academic format. Introductory courses explore questions in philosophy, politics, economics, history, sociology, and religion, as well as those scientific issues central to our legal institutions. As students progress through the major, they can tailor their focus around particular areas of interest, from economic or corporate law to environmental advocacy, criminal justice reform, or more philosophical questions of agency, ethics, and culpability.

The Law and Society program draws on courses from as many as 15 Academic Units
Each year up to 12 students join The Law and Justice Scholars Program to study with a member of the legal profession

Pre-Law and Legal Careers

Law schools want to see the kind of academically serious, socially engaged students Oberlin is known to cultivate. Our pre-law advisors support students as they prepare for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and the application process.

Students in a lecture hall.

Featured Courses

PHIL 121

Philosophy & Morality

This course introduces the discipline and practice of philosophy within the context of ethical inquiry. Questions explored include: Where does morality come from? Is morality relative? What makes a life go well? How do we know which actions are right and wrong? The course also considers several ethical disputes such as abortion and euthanasia.

Taught by
Amy Berg
LAWS 200

Law and Society: An Overview

Law frames the way we live as a society, from providing practical resolutions to contentious issues to guiding policies that affect how we relate to one another. This course introduces students to various types of law and fields of inquiry that examine how law and society impact one another. Film viewing required.

Taught by
Joyce Babyak
AAST 220

Doin’ Time: A History of Black Incarceration

This course considers how a system imprisoning Black men and women in the U.S. has been sustained from the colonial times to the present. It establishes a theoretical grounding for understanding systems of surveillance and confinement, as well as the institutions and practices that sustain what can arguably be termed 21st century enslavement.

Taught by
Pamela (Pam) Brooks
POLT 229

Politics & Power of International Law

From climate change and poverty, to war and repression, we increasingly seek legal solutions to major global problems. And yet, international law has not developed the kind of enforcement mechanism that anchors domestic regimes. The course explores this paradox while examining what international is, and what its impact on global politics can be.

Taught by
Joshua Freedman

Student Profiles

Flexing the Reporting Muscles

At Oberlin, Jenna Gyimesi ’19 was the news editor for the Oberlin Review, a varsity field hockey player, and a triple major in politics, law and society, and philosophy. Now, she is working toward a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.

Jenna Gyimesi.

Double-Degree Beebe Fellow

At Oberlin, Max Bessesen ’16 majored in law and society and jazz saxophone performance. After graduation, he was awarded a Beebe fellowship to study in India.

Max Bessesen

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Students studying in Academic Commons in the main library.
Photo credit: Gary Cohen