GLOBAL LEGAL PLURALISM: A JURISPRUDENCE OF LAW BEYOND BORDERS by PAUL SCHIFF BERMAN

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2013.00650.x
Publication Date01 Nov 2013
AuthorRICHARD A. WILSON
GLOBAL LEGAL PLURALISM: A JURISPRUDENCE OF LAW BEYOND
BORDERS by PAUL SCHIFF BERMAN
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 358 pp., £60.00)
In Global Legal Pluralism: A Jurisprudence of Law Beyond Borders, Paul
Schiff Berman ambitiously reinvigorates the time-honoured concept of legal
pluralism, applies it on a global scale, and yokes it to an ethical framework
inspired by procedural liberalism and cosmopolitanism. Briefly stated, legal
pluralism is an analytical concept that addresses the existence of more than
one mechanism for generating rules and adjudicating disputes within any
given social or political field. Legal pluralism originated in the anti-positivist
legal philosophy of the early twentieth century, as a reaction to the estab-
lished view in law schools known as `legal centralism' that regarded only
state law as `law proper'. In reality, argued pluralists, state control in the
domain of law was far from absolute, and in many colonial or post-colonial
contexts, it was not especially relevant to the normative regulation of local
society. This became the accepted view in the anthropology, history, and
sociology of non-Western law in the second half of the twentieth century.
1
As the intellectual movement gathered momentum, the Journal of Legal
Pluralism was launched in the 1970s out of the African Law Studies journal,
and a sizeable body of scholarship on postcolonial African and Asian law
(both state and customary) was carried out under this conceptual umbrella.
After a lively and sometimes fractious set of exchanges in subsequent
decades, lawyers and legal anthropologists largely moved on from the
concept.
2
Instead of nailing their colours to the mast of legal pluralism, legal
scholars are more likely to turn to theories of globalization, or to develop new
ideas that drew an analogy with modern languages and contrasted their
`formal/high' and popular/vernacular forms.
3
An exception to this trend can
be found in the writings of postmodernist legal theorists such as Santos,
4
who
706
1 See S.E. Merry, `Legal Pluralism' (1988) 22 Law and Society Rev. 869 for a succinct
overview of legal pluralism.
2 See, for example, F. von Benda-Beckmann, `Who's Afraid of Legal Pluralism?'
(2002) no. 47 J. of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 37; S. Roberts, `Against Legal
Pluralism: Some Reflections on the Contemporary Enlargement of the Legal Domain'
(1998) no. 42 J. of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 95; B. Tamanaha, `The Folly
of the ``Social Scientific'' Concept of Legal Pluralism' (1993) 20 J. of Law and
Society 192; B. Tamanaha, `A Non-Essentialist Version of Legal Pluralism' (2000) 27
J. of Law and Society 296.
3 Sally Merry's ideas on the vernacularization of human rights has been particularly
influential in this regard: S.E. Merry, `Anthropology, Law and Transnational Pro-
cesses' (1992) 21 Annual Rev. of Anthropology 357; S.E. Merry, `Legal Pluralism and
Transnational Culture' in Human Rights, Culture & Context: Anthropological
Perspectives, ed. R.A. Wilson (1997); S.E. Merry, `Transnational Human Rights and
Local Activism: Mapping the Middle' (2006) 108 Am. Anthropologist 38.
4 B. de Sousa Santos, Toward a New Common Sense: Law, Science and Politics in the
Paradigmatic Transition (1995).
ß2013 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2013 Cardiff University Law School

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