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Legal System, The

Legal System, The: A Social Science Perspective

Lawrence M. Friedman
Copyright Date: 1975
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 338
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  • Book Info
    Legal System, The
    Book Description:

    Examines the impact of social forces on the legal system and how the rules and orders promulgated by that legal system affect social behavior. Dr. Friedman explores the relationship between class structure and the work of legal systems in the light of the existing literature and analyzes the influence of the cultural elements contained in a legal system. In a comprehensive analysis of the concept of legal culture, the author sheds new light on the development of our legal norms and the types of legal systems which prevail in a democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-228-2
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Lawrence M. Friedman
  4. Chapter I The Legal System
    (pp. 1-24)

    The subject of this book is the legal system. Before going any further, then, something must be said about this phrase. A legal system is not a thing like a chair, a horse, or a book; it is not a well-defined concept in the social world like the Roman Catholic church or the nuclear family. In brief, there is no definition on which scholars—and the public—agree.

    There are many ways, in fact, to look at law or the legal system. One way is as “the law,” that is, a set of rules or norms, written or unwritten, about...

  5. Chapter II On Legal Acts
    (pp. 25-44)

    In the first chapter, we used the termlegal act, which we define very broadly. A legal act is any behavior by any person with authority acting within the legal system. Many legal acts are addressed to an audience and require or request someone’s behavior. It is a legal act when a policeman stops a car and asks the driver to show his license. The driver is the subject of the act. The first part of this book explores the general question, Under what circumstances do legal acts lead to responses and of what sort?

    Legal actscome in various...

  6. Chapter III On Legal Impact
    (pp. 45-66)

    A crucial function of rules is guiding behavior. It follows that one major aim of any scientific study of law is to discover the impact of law on behavior.² Under what conditions do people react to legal rules or make use of them? Under what conditions do they defy, misuse, or ignore the law? This chapter introduces the subject with some distinctions, definitions, and propositions. The following two chapters deal with specific factors that mold or change legal behavior.

    Legal acts take many forms. Any decision by a legal authority, any new rule, or affirmation of an old one is...

  7. Chapter IV When Is Law Effective?— Part I
    (pp. 67-104)

    This chapter will deal with legal behavior, that is, with conduct that follows on and is causally related to a legal act. Strictly speaking, only behavior which is not absolutely, physically coerced can be legal behavior. If a policeman drags a man kicking and screaming into a police van, the latter’s behavior is not legal behavior. The policeman’s is. If the man enters the van on his own two feet at the command of the police, even though he does it because heknowsthe police will drag him aboard if they must, his behavior is for our purposes voluntary,...

  8. Chapter V When Is Law Effective?— Part II
    (pp. 105-136)

    Throughout the discussion of sanctions we assumed, on the whole, a fairly simple situation: A legal actor, with authority, gives orders to a subject or lays down rules for him to follow. No doubt it is good to begin with this simple model in mind. The subject makes his private calculus of benefits and costs and decides how to respond. If we raise his costs or change his benefits, he moves his behavior from one square to another on the checkerboard.

    But we know life is rarely that simple. First, “the law” is not the only source of punishments and...

  9. Chapter VI On the Origin of Law and Laws
    (pp. 137-166)

    Earlier chapters dealt with conditions under which laws became more or less effective. This chapter asks what is, in a sense, a prior question. Where do laws come from? What social forces produce law, the laws, the legal system, and legal change?

    It is possible to answer this question only in a broad and general way. Legislatures, courts, and administrative bodies grind out new rules every day. Each legal act, each fragment of legal behavior, has its own special history. Each is unique, like a set of fingerprints. Nonetheless, legal acts fall into types, patterns recur, and some generalizations are...

  10. Chapter VII Law, Power, and Social Structure
    (pp. 167-192)

    What makes law, then, is not “public opinion,” in the sense that Cohen, Robson, and Bates use the phrase, but social force actually exerted. But what is social force? What is “pressure” made of? There is no convenient word for a unit of legal or political force. The unit of economic force is simple: It is money—the dollar. The legal or political unit is more slippery, more abstract. Power, influence, and force are real phenomena. Social forces, power, and influence come in sizes and forms; we can compare them with each other. We can speak of them as big...

  11. Chapter VIII On Legal Culture
    (pp. 193-222)

    The basic argument of this book has dealt with legal acts, legal impact, and their relationship. In brief, three clusters of factors determine impact—sanctions, social or peer group influences, and internal values (conscience, concepts of legitimacy). Social forces manufacture law (legal acts) in the first place, but pure “social forces” are too raw to operate directly on the legal system. Individuals and groups haveinterests;interests, however, must be processed intodemandsbefore they are relevant to the legal system. This means that, while the laws (legal acts) are the product of social forces and result from pressures, bargaining,...

  12. Chapter IX On Internal Legal Culture
    (pp. 223-268)

    In an earlier chapter, we discussed the concept of ademandon the legal system in general terms. A writ of habeas corpus, a letter to a congressman, a scream for help from the police in a dark street at night—all these are demands on the legal system. Behind each demand is a concrete interest and a cultural proclivity to address such demands to some part of the system. People may have similar needs or interests, but because of cultural differences or differences in the structure of the legal system, they make different demands. Also, a person who writes...

  13. Chapter X Social Change and Legal Change
    (pp. 269-310)

    The prior chapters, by and large, have examined legal systems statically, that is, in cross section, as one would see them at one particular point in time. Legal systems are of course not static. They are constantly in motion, constantly changing. It is necessary to look at social systems in equilibrium, but in fact they are also exposed to ceaseless conflict and change.¹ This chapter deals specifically with legal and social change.

    Onegeneralproposition about legal change was implicit in the earlier chapters, that is, that major legal change follows and depends on social change. Not every change in...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-332)
  15. Index
    (pp. 333-338)