Society is for many definitional purposes political society? The passage is not easy at all. Most of all, the sentence including the expression evades me. What does it mean?

The modern concept of law and the modern sociological concept of society have common origins in the composite idea of the nation state brought to full realization in the revolutionary period of the late eighteenth century(Woolf 1991). In the shadow of this idea, law and society are almost mutually defining. Society is for many definitional purposes political society; that is, a territorially defined arena of social interaction regulated by a specific political system (for example, British society; French society). Society is, thus, significantly delimited by the jurisdictional reach of legal systems(cf. Lacey 1998: 120). This, however, undermines the idea that law is in some sense a product or expression of society. One might put matters the other way around: (political) society is a product of law(Fitzpatrick 1995). If the unity of society is fragmented, so too is that of law as a social phenomenon.

Law, Culture and Society: Legal Ideas in the Mirror of Social Theory

2 Answers 2


There are several definitions/terms using the word 'society', in many of those definitions, it is a 'political society'.

And yes, this is not an easy passage, but that's true for most scientific books. Popular science is a separate genre after all ...


'Definitional' is not in most dictionaries but, as this NGram graph shows, its usage rose steadily from 1940 to 1980, and since then it has remained stable. Most of the usages are in academic publications.

If you can't find a word in a dictionary, it's worth checking a list of prefixes and suffixes to see whether it is understandable as a variant of a dictionary word. In this case, the suffix -al means 'concerning'.

What this sentence means is:

'Society' can, for many purposes, be defined as 'political society'.

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