Studying Law by Association: Bruno Latour Goes to the Conseil d’État


  • Ron Levi is Assistant Professor of Criminology at the University of Toronto (

  • Mariana Valverde is Professor of Criminology at the University of Toronto (

  • This essay builds on a roundtable that we held on this book at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Law & Society Association. The authors would like to thank the participants of that roundtable, and in particular Leticia Barrera, Susan Silbey, and Rashmee Singh for their insights and their recollections of the conversation. The authors would also like to thank the two referees who read this essay for Law & Social Inquiry. All translations from the original French are ours.


This essay provides an overview of actor-network theory (ANT) and its potential interest for sociolegal scholars. It focuses on Bruno Latour's 2002 ethnography of La fabrique du droit: une ethnographie du Conseil d’État [The factory of law: an ethnography of the Conseil d’État] (2002b), which provides an analysis of the workings of the French Conseil d’État. The essay seeks to introduce non-French-reading sociolegal researchers to this work and draws out methodological and theoretical implications for research on legal institutions, legal knowledge, and bureaucracies.