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Law, society and culture

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Law plays a role in all aspects of our everyday life. In this innovative module, you will explore the relationships between law, society and culture. You'll explore these themes through the lens of diverse and cutting edge issues which can sometimes be controversial. You'll have a unique opportunity to shape your pathway through the module by choosing the theme of your final block of study, focusing either on law and humanities or on law and environments. This module, which has been specially designed to be studied online, will also equip you with a range of legal and transferable skills necessary for further independent study as well as for your personal and professional life.   

What you will study

Throughout the module, you will find a strong emphasis on law in context. This includes analysing of the interaction between law and the political, cultural and social contexts in which we live today, as well as an examination of these contexts from a historical perspective. As you work through the module you will be increasingly prompted towards recognising, examining, questioning and challenging in depth these legal contexts using your own legal reasoning.

After studying the first two themes, you'll have an opportunity to choose either law and humanities or law and environments. The final piece of assessment, which takes the form of a research essay, will be on a topic in whichever of those themes you choose.

Block 1: Law and gender
This theme will look at the relationship between gender and law. It will challenge existing assumptions about the neutrality of law and explore the gendered nature of law. In the second unit of the block, you'll focus on challenging the gender stereotypes and assumptions regarding female perpetrators and their treatment in the criminal justice system (in the UK and international context).

Block 2: Law and the body
In this block you're introduced to four contemporary topics on law and the body. At all stages of life, the body is subject to law and control, but how bodies are controlled and how bodies are permitted to be acted on changes in different circumstances. The first unit discusses consent to bodily harm through established case law, with a particular focus on how the body is permitted to act in sporting spheres. The second unit continues with issues surrounding law’s regulation of the body through the introduction of illegal drugs and safe injection sites. The third unit considers experiences of healthcare in a socio-legal context, while the fourth unit explores the relationship between law and the body in the context of neuroscientific, societal, legal and philosophical interpretations of what it may mean to be conscious of our actions.

Block 3A: Law and humanities
This block explores law in the context of humanities. Throughout this block, a sub-theme of Nazi Germany is adopted to provide you with concrete examples from a particular time period to explore the connections between the law and three key topics: the visual, language, and cultural property.

Starting with a critical inquiry into how symbols, emblems, heraldry etc., were used by the Nazis in relation to and in accordance with the law to support and promote their ideology in the lead-up to WWII, you'll proceed to explore the language used in the legal texts of this historical period. Finally, you'll explore the legal issues surrounding cultural property of this period, the development of the international framework on protecting cultural property as well as the topic of return of cultural property after the war.

Block 3B: Law and environments
This block critically engages with three contemporary issues relating to law in three very diverse and exciting environments. The first unit challenges you to think critically about the legal implications of people’s participation in online spaces in the contexts of human rights (freedom of expression), and what could, and should, be subject to legal controls. The second unit engages with the issue of legal controls in our lived environment and climate change. The third unit takes us out of this world and into outer space, while encouraging us to think critically about how and why law operates in space.


Professional recognition

If you intend to use this module as part of the LLB and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. You should read the information on the website, as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Entry requirements

We recommend that you have successfully completed 60 credits of OU level 2 modules prior to studying this OU level 3 module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

All the content and activities for this module will be available via the module website, which also includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

You will need

You will need to record an oral presentation as part of your assessed work on this module. We strongly recommend that you use a headset with a microphone, as using an external or integrated microphone and speakers could result in a poor-quality recording.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will mark and comment on your written and oral work. The tutors will also answer any questions you have about the study material or any other module-related queries. 

You'll have the opportunity to participate in various online learning events, which we strongly encourage as you'll be able to interact with the other students.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

One of the tutor-marked assignments is an oral presentation and you will be required to use Audio Recording Tool to record your presentation and submit it. The end-of-module assessment is a research essay and an opportunity to conduct your own small-scale research.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W340 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Law, society and culture starts twice a year – in October and February. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

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