The Law Multiple

The Law Multiple: Judgment and Knowledge in Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

About the book

In the field of socio-legal studies or law and society scholarship, it is rare to find empirically rich and conceptually sophisticated understandings of actual legal practice. This book, in contrast, connects the conceptual and the empirical, the abstract and the concrete, and in doing so shows the law to be an irreducibly social, material and temporal practice. Drawing on cutting-edge work in the social study of knowledge, it grapples with conceptual and methodological questions central to the field: how and where judgment empirically takes place; how and where facts are made; and how researchers might study these local and concrete ways of judging and knowing. Drawing on an ethnographic study of how narratives and documents, particularly case files, operate within legal practices, this book’s unique and innovative approach consists of rearticulating the traditional boundaries separating judgment from knowledge, urging us to rethink the way truths are made within law.


‘The Law Multiple is a superb reconceptualization of knowledge, judgement and the making of legal cases. Extraordinary in its breadth and depth … not only reports fascinating empirical study of decision-making, but also presents a brilliantly original treatise in research methodology and the sociology of law. Eschewing finality and the temptation to retreat into the comfort of abstract purification, Irene van Oorschot takes us on a bold expedition to think through the performativities of social research and socio-legal studies. Synergising high level theory with sensitive empirical research, [it] breaks new ground in sentencing and decision-making research. It reveals empirically how legal case-making work is conducted through its material media. It develops previous conceptualisations about holism and case-construction by showing how typified case narratives conduct moral sense-making … Written with flair and humour, every page will make you think.’ – Cyrus Tata – Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

‘Van Oorschot provides a lucid and creative account of the practices of judges in the making of a case. Critically, concepts such as enactment and multiplicity that are taken up to think about judicial case-making practices are also deployed to cast a gaze on the knowledge-making practices of sociology. In this way, van Oorschot provides not only a valuable examination of legal practices but also a reflexive questioning of truthmaking in the social sciences.’ – Evelyn Ruppert – Professor and Director of Research in the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

‘What is the law? In this compelling book Irene van Oorschot does not seek a single, purified answer to that question. Instead, she takes it along with her while exploring diverse juridical practices in diverse ways. This research strategy allows her to show that the law is multiple: an amalgam of contrasting and yet interconnected practices. A distribution machine. A moral knot.  Depended on files. Oriented on rules. Generating times. Invested in truth. And what else? Crucially, invitingly, the list is open ended.’ – Annemarie Mol – Professor Health, care and the Body, University of Amsterdan

‘How is law done in practice? And what do sociologists make of those practices in turn? Thankfully, there is no need to come up with general, one-size-fits-all answers. As Irene van Oorschot’s masterful study of case-making in the Netherlands demonstrates, the task is rather to trace how judgements and knowledge encounter each other in a range of specific, partially connected material settings. Drawing on the insights of Science and Technology Studies and Socio-Legal Studies, this double-edged ethnography suggests that in impatient times the lack of singular epistemo-legal schemes might be our best hope.’ – Endre Dányi – Visiting Professor for the Sociology of Globalisation, Bunderswehr University Munich

‘The Law Multiple invents social and legal studies and the sociology of law anew, but its relevance lies beyond that, in making an utterly convincing case for an exciting new way of analysing practices of knowledge production and valuation. Here, one of the brightest minds of her generation storms onto the scene of the social sciences. – Willem Schinkel – Professor of Social Theory, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Where to find

The Law Multiple will be available in hard copy, paper back, and digital copy through the usual channels. Here you can find it on the website of Cambridge University Press. Here are links to the book online booksellers: and Of course, your local bookseller will be glad to order it for you, too.