The efficacy of Law as an Instrument of Social Change


As an instrument of social change, law entails two interrelated processes: the institutionalization and the internalization of patterns of behavior.

  • Institutionalization of a pattern of behavior refers to the establishment of a norm with provisions for its enforcement (such as desegregation of public schools).
  • Internalization of a pattern of behavior means the incorporation of the value or values implicit in a law (eg. Integrated public schools are ‘good’).

The extent to which law can provide an effective impetus for social change varies according to the conditions present in a particular situation. Evan suggests that a law is likely to be successful to induce change if it meets the following seven conditions:

  1. Law must emanate from an authoritative and prestigious source
  2. Law must introduce its rationale in terms that are understandable and compatible with existing values
  3. Advocates of the change should make reference to other communities or countries with which the population identifies and where the law is already in effect
  4. Enforcement of the law must be aimed at making the change in a relatively short time
  5. Those enforcing the law must themselves be very much committed to the change intended by the law
  6. The instrumentation of the law should include positive as well as negative sanctions
  7. The enforcement of the law should be reasonable, not only in the sanctions used but also in the protection of the rights of those who stand to lose by violation