Source: (2007) History of the Human Sciences. 20(2):51-70.

Law has been a close partner to sociology from its very beginning, and the partnership often has proven to be extremely prolific for sociology. Grand theories as well as vital conceptual tools can be counted among its offspring. Both disciplines share the common ground of socio-legal studies, which has developed into a nearly independent interdisciplinary enterprise where legal scholars and sociologists happily meander between the normative and the analytical. From the vast array of topics in the field of socio-legal studies I select the sociology of criminal justice and punishment in order to demonstrate the characteristics of this relationship. The partnership between sociology and law emerged as part of the modernization project in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the sociology of punishment was part of this endeavour. Rooted in a strong tradition of old (Durkheim) and new (Elias, Foucault) classics, recent developments in this field are leaving the idea of an ‘unproblematically modern punishment’ (Whitman, 2005a) behind, and new fields of inquiry for comparative lawyers and sociologists are opening up. (author's abstract)