Frank W. Munger
John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, Emeritus
As a sociologist, Frank Munger is fascinated by the place of law in the everyday lives of ordinary people. As a lawyer, he is concerned about the power of courts, lawyers and the formal law to bring about change. As an internationally-recognized scholar, his research includes studies of the relationship between class and law in critical moments of massive social change, intimate stories of the role of new legal rights in the lives of individuals, and collective biography of generations of legal activists who must make sense of an evolving rule of law.
Professor Munger has conducted research in the United States and Europe, but recently, his interest in the meaning of a rule of law has taken him to Asia’s rapidly developing societies, especially Thailand. Thailand’s legal system, inspired by Western legal institutions and practices, has roots in a history and culture quite different from Europe’s. Munger’s ethnographic and historical studies describe lawyer’s careers, examine how law and courts take root, and trace the evolution of ideas about rule of law in Thailand. A symposium organized with scholars Scott Cummings and Louise Trubek brought together path-breaking studies of legal activism in 11 Asian countries written by lawyers about their own experiences. He is currently at work on a book examining meanings of rule of law in play in a political culture divided among Thailand’s living legacy of monarchism and elite rule, recent interventions by military generals, and the younger generation’s increasing attraction to democracy.
In addition to numerous articles, he wrote Rights of Inclusion: Law and Identity in the Lives of Americans with Disabilities, a book, co-authored with Professor David Engel, which examines the subtle and informal influence of rights on the everyday lives of persons with disabilities. It won the Gustavus Meyers Human Rights Award in 2003. Other books include: Laboring Below the Line: The New Ethnography of Poverty, Low-wage Work, and Survival in the Global Economy and Law and Poverty, a collection of classic interdisciplinary essays published as a resource for teachers and poverty scholars.
Professor Munger is former General Editor of the Law & Society Review and past President of the Law and Society Association. He served as Chair of the Section on Sociology of Law of the American Sociological Association, Chair of the Section on Law and Social Sciences of the American Association of Law Schools, and on numerous editorial boards and government research review panels.