Mind the gap: The place of gap studies in sociolegal scholarship

Jon B. Gould, Scott Barclay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations


Arising in the late 1960s and early 1970s in conjunction with the development of sociology of law and the Law and Society Association gap studies dominated much of sociolegal scholarship for a time, providing multiple examples of the ways in which law on the books is inconsistent with law in action. These gaps, in turn, spurred calls for legal reform. By the 1980s, however, gap studies came in for criticism, not only for the presumption that law was purposively rational but also for scholars' beliefs that they could identify law's aims. To some, the findings were nai dieve or undertheorized. Nonetheless, gap studies have illuminated many legal practices and have helped to identify pathways by which law may have an impact. Even as sociolegal scholarship has become increasingly decentered from law, one still sees the tendrils of gap studies in research exploring discrepancies between expectations and actuality in law and legality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-335
Number of pages13
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Sociolegal scholarship
  • decentering law
  • legal consciousness
  • legal impact
  • sociology of law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Mind the gap: The place of gap studies in sociolegal scholarship'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this