School of Social and Political Science

Professor Emeritus Michael Adler

Job Title

Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies

recent photo
Mobile telephone number

Research interests



I have a BA in Chemistry from Oxford, an AM in Sociology from Harvard and a PhD in Socio-Legal Studies from Edinburgh. 

Biographical Statement

I joined Social Policy as a lecturer in 1971, was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1984, to Reader in 1991 and to Professor in 1996.  I was Professor of Socio-Legal Studies until I retired in 2008 when I was made an Emeritus Professor.  I held a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship from 2008-2010 and was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) in 2012.

Between 1971 and 2008, I taught a wide range of courses for undergraduates, students on taught postgraduate courses and PhD students, and was, at various times, convener of the introductory course on ‘Politics of the Welfare State’, the School-based course ‘Social and Political Theory’, various honours courses including a compulsory course on ‘Welfare, Justice and the State’, an MSc course on ‘Law and Public Policy’ and the Graduate School course on ‘Research Design’.  I supervised a total of 34 PhD and three MPhil students.

Over time, my interests focused on a range of problems at the interface between social policy and public law, in particular the nature of administrative justice, the resolution of administrative grievances and the effectiveness of different mechanisms of dispute resolution.  Most of my research was in discrete policy areas such as educational policy, social security, penal policy and consumer credit/consumer indebtedness.

Other responsibilities

I was Head of Social Policy for two three-year terms.

Together with Frans Pennings (University of Utrecht), I was co-editor of the European Journal of Social Security for more than 20 years from its establishment in 1998 until 2020.  From 2010 until its abolition in 2013, I was a member of the Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC) and directed two research projects (on administrative decisions where there is no right of appeal, and on the inter-relationship between appeals, complaints and reviews) for the Scottish Committee. I continue to review articles submitted to other peer-reviewed journals and assess grant applications and end-of grant reports.

I am currently a Member of the Administrative Justice Committee of the Law Society of Scotland, having been a Member of the Scottish Committee of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council (AJTC) for four years until it was abolished in 2012.

For several years, I was a Member of the Executive Committee of the Socio-Legal-Studies Association (SLSA) and Chair of its Scottish Committee. In 2012, I was awarded the SLSA’s lifetime achievement award for Contributions to the Socio-Legal Community.

I chaired the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC’s) Socio-Legal Subject Area Panel for the Recognition Exercises in 2005 and 2007. Before that, I served two terms as a Member of this Panel and acted as Examiner and Chief Examiner in Socio-Legal Studies and Criminology for ESRC Postgraduate Studentships.


In the course of my career, I have published eight books, 13 research reports and eight edited collections of papers. I have written 64 sole authored and 44 jointly authored articles and book chapters, most of which appeared in peer-reviewed journals.  Listed below are a selection of the more important publications that have come out since I retired in 2008.


Administrative Justice in Context, Oxford; Hart Publishing, 2010 (edited).

Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment? Benefit Sanctions in the UK, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

A Research Agenda for Social Welfare Law, Policy and Practice, Edward Elgar Publishing (edited), 2022 (forthcoming).

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

‘The Future of Administrative Justice’, in Joe Tomlinson, Robert Thomas, Richard Kirkham and Marc Hertogh (eds) Oxford Handbook on Administrative Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

‘The Alston Report on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in the UK: A Review’, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 2020, 265-276.

‘The Social Minimum in the Context of Inequality’, in Toomas Kotkas, Ingrid Leijten and Frans Pennings (eds) Specifying and Securing a Social Minimum in the Battle against Poverty, Oxford: Hart, 2019, 71-91.

‘The Emperor has no Clothes ‒ Destitution, social security and the law in the UK’, in Hartlev, M, Jørgensen, S, Aune, H. and Hellum, A. (eds.) Ketsch Me if You Can ‒ Sociale Rettigheder og Ligestillung: Hyldest for Kirsten Ketscher, Oslo: Karnov, 2017, 33-56.

‘Defining and Delivering Minimum Incomes in China’, International Journal of Law in Context, 14(1), 2018, 157-169.

‘Austerity, Conditionality and Litigation in Six European Countries’, in Stefano Matteucci and Simon Halliday (eds.) Social Rights in an Age of Austerity: European Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2017, 147-177 (with Lars Inge Terum).

‘The New Leviathan: Benefit Sanctions in the 21st Century’, Journal of Law and Society, 43(2), 2016, 195-227.

‘The Legal Protection of Minimum Standards ‒ a tale of two countries’, in Stamatia Devetzi and Constanze Janda (eds.) Freiheit ‒ Gerechtigkeit ‒ Sozial(es) Recht: Festschrift für Eberhard Eichenhofer, 2015, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 15-35.

‘Stepwise Progression: The Past, Present and Possible Future of Empirical Research on Law in the US and the UK’, Journal of Law and Society, 41(2), 2014, 173-202 (with Jonathan Simon).

‘Conditionality, Sanctions and the Effective Absence of Redress in the British “New Deal” Programs’, in Evelyn Brodkin and Greg Marston (eds.) Work and the Welfare State: The Politics and Management of Policy Change, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press and Copenhagen, DJØF, 2013, 229-248.

‘The Rise and Fall of Administrative Justice – A Cautionary Tale’, Socio-Legal Review, 8 (2), 2012, 28-54.

‘Administrative law, administrative agencies, and redress mechanisms in the UK and Sweden’, chapter 13 in Clark, David S. (ed.) Comparative Law and Society, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2012 (254-289), (with Sara Stendahl).

‘Understanding and Analysing Administrative Justice’, in Michael Adler (ed.) Administrative Justice in Context, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2010, 129-159.

‘Social Security and Social Welfare’ in Peter Cane and Herbert Kritzer (eds.) Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 399-423.

‘Tribunals ain’t what they used to be’, Adjust Newsletter, March 2009, available at

‘The Idea of Proportionality in Dispute Resolution’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 30 (4), 2008, 309–321.

‘From Tribunal Reform to the Reform of Administrative Justice’, in Creyke, Robin (ed.) Tribunals in the Common Law World, Annandale, NSW: The Federation Press, 2008, 153-174.

‘The Justice Implications of “Activation Policies” in the UK’, in Thomas Erhag, Sara Stendahl, and Stamatia Devetzi (eds.) A European Work-First Welfare State, Göteborg: University of Göteborg: Centre for European Research, 2008, 95-131.

Works within