Half empty, half full, or neither: Law, inequality, and social change in capitalist democracies

Robin Stryker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

35 Scopus citations


Reviewing research on organizational compliance, the politics of law, law and social movements, law and inequality, and law, and social change, this article examines conditions under which legal institutions have more or less capacity to promote inequality-reducing social change in democratic capitalism. Law produces social change through a combination of rational adaptation to legal incentive structures, cultural meaning making and institutional diffusion, and political mobilization and counter-mobilization. Substantive effects-oriented administrative, adjudicative, and organizational interpretations of welfare-oriented legislation maximizes inequality reduction. These interpretations are most likely to be achieved through a combination of collective mobilization for strategic litigation in conjunction with sustained political mobilization from below both in society and in organizations, accompanied by the influence in implementation and also active monitoring by law and social science-savvy reformers representing the interests of disadvantaged classes and groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
EditorsJohn Hagan, Kim Lane Scheppele, Tom Tyler
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
ISSN (Print)1550-3585


  • Discrimination
  • Economy
  • Institutionalism
  • Politics
  • Rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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