INDIRECT AND DIRECT EFFECTS OF LAW ON SOCIAL CHANGE
There are several ways of considering the role of law in social change. In an influential article “Law and Social Change,” Yehezkel Dror (1968) distinguished between the indirect and direct aspects of law in social change. Dror (1968:673) contended that “law plays an important indirect role in social change by shaping various social institutions, which in turn have a direct impact on society.” He used the illustration of the compulsory education system, which performed an important indirect role in regard to change. Mandatory school attendance upgraded the quality of the labor force, which, in turn, played a direct role in social change by contributing to an increased rate of industrialization and modernization. Dror argues that law exerts an indirect influence on social change in general by influencing the possibilities of change in various social institutions. For example, the existence of a patent law protecting the rights of inventors encourages inventions and furthers change in the technological institutions, which, in turn, may bring about other types of social change. As another example, the existence of a patent law protecting the rights of inventors encourages inventions and furthers change in the technological institutions, which, in turn, may again lead to other types of social change.
Dror also emphasized that law interacts in many cases directly with basic social institutions, constituting a direct relationship between law and social change. For example, laws prohibiting racial discrimination in education have a direct influence on social change by enabling previously excluded groups to attend schools of their choice. He warned, however, that “the distinction is not an absolute but a relative one: In some cases, the emphasis is more on the direct and less on the indirect impact of social change, while in other cases the opposite is true” (Dror, 1968:674).
For all modern societies, Dror (1968:676) continued, every collection of statutes and delegated legislation is “full of illustrations of the direct use of law as a device for directed social change.” A good example of social change directly induced by law was the enactment of Prohibition in the United States to shape social behavior. (It was also one of the more conspicuous failures, showing that there are limits to the ability of law to achieve social change, as we will discuss later.) Other illustrations of comparable magnitude include the abolition of slavery in the United States and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.