Book review: Ubiquitous Law: Legal Theory and the Space for Legal Pluralism

AuthorWerner Menski
Published date01 December 2011
Date01 December 2011
Subject MatterBook reviews
survived HBV. As Pervizat explains, this case contains various elements of HBV: forced
marriage, marital rape, and attempted murder in the name of family honour.
Overall, the volume provides comprehensive research findings on and analyses of
HBV. Most of the essays containdetailed theoretical arguments as well as some empirical
research. The volume targets not only academics and specialists in the field of HBV and
gender studies but also activists, policy makers and government officials. Although it is a
very subject-specific collection for students at undergraduate level, it is highly recom-
mended for students at postgraduate levels.
Ame RK (2011) Children’s rights, controversial traditional practices, and the Trokosi system: A
critical socio-legal perspective. In: Ame RK, Lafa Agbenyiga D and Araba Apt N (eds) Chil-
dren’s Rights in Ghana: Reality or Rhetoric. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Okin SM (1999) Is multiculturalism bad for women? In: Cohen J, Howard M and Nussbaum M
(eds) Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 9–30.
King’s College London, UK
EMMANUEL MELISSARIS, Ubiquitous Law: Legal Theory and the Space for Legal Pluralism.
Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009, 169 pp., ISBN 9780745625421, £60 (hbk).
Questions about ‘the law’ always face a multiplicity of views, ubiquitous like the world’s
oceans. That law is everywhere is hardly new, and probably uncontestable, despite ear-
lier Hartian assertions to the contrary, much loose talk today about lawlessness in certain
places, and stubborn presumptions that without the State there is no law. Torn between
swimming in sharkpools, trying to save the world, still (or again) accepting ‘nonsense on
stilts’ and sliding into social work – or more often politics and human rights activism –
lawyers seem to remain deeply confused about law itself. So does this book contribute
anything new? Or are we just hiding confusions in sophisticated words, minting money
(surely not by publishing such books!) while building careers in the process?
The predatory nature of law as a complex superstructure with much internal plurality
is captured well in the seven chapters of this book, but does detailed meta-theorizing
about legal pluralism offer progress? The key thesis is that legality rests on shared nor-
mative experiences. Ergo, hardly new, lawyersmust accept ‘the possibility of understand-
ing the law in dissociation from the State’ (p. 4). Melissaris combines constant
interweaving and mutual redeemability of philosophical methods with socio-theoretical
approaches to law to find not only ‘the inescapable need to theorize the law’, so that
‘[l]egality can now be discovered everywhere’ (p. 126), but also states that ‘[n]ormativity
itself is ubiquitous’ (p. 126)and that ‘the study of law is not either philosophical or socio-
logical. It is necessarily both’ (p. 153, emphases in the original). Menski (2006), foot-
noted but not discussed at p. 26, indicated all of this, maybe too vaguely, but I now
speak more explicitly of law as a plurality of pluralities, simply ‘pop’, illustrated as kite
Book reviews 567

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