Plural Pluralities of Law

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    Abstract

    Law's plurality can be understood in a variety of ways. It can be seen geographically, with different spaces and scales being associated with types of law beyond and within the nation state. It can be understood discursively, with ‘jurisgenerative’ communities creating a multitude of readings and understandings of law. It can be understood sociologically, with layers of formal and informal law making up the normative domain for particular associative groups. It can even be understood from the position of the performative subject who creates law in their everyday interpretations and actions. The plurality of law can refer to the inherent plurality of the singular system of state law, or it can refer to the existence of a plurality of legal systems. Legal pluralism is a plurality of pluralities, generated in part by paying attention to the bottom-up and material conditions of law production. In trying to unravel some of these complexities, this chapter also adds to them by radically expanding the meaning and reach of law so that its material substrata consist not only of the social and discursive domains, but also the human body, the earth, and the world of objects. Law Has No Limits I begin by briefly considering, and then putting to one side, the concern – often raised in discussions of legal pluralism – that it risks sliding into an undifferentiated mélange of various types of normativities. In this context, Sally Engle Merry's question is frequently quoted – ‘Where do we stop speaking of law and find ourselves simply describing social life? Is it useful to call all these forms of ordering law?’ Once we have moved beyond the limits of a single state-defined system of law as the model and exclusive case of law, many normative environments intrude into the analysis of legal plurality. These ‘laws’ include not only the indigenous legal orders of colonised societies which have been suppressed but not destroyed by the colonial state. They also include religious forms of law, some of which have a decidedly state-like appearance (and even in one case a quasi-state recognition in the international legal order).

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationIn Pursuit of Pluralist Jurisprudence
    EditorsNicole Roughan, Andrew Halpin
    Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Chapter11
    Pages239-260
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9781316875056
    ISBN (Print)9781107183964
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Keywords

    • Legal pluralism
    • Law

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