Legal pluralism

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We all live with some idea of justice that shapes in profound ways the ways we relate to each other and what we regard as right and wrong. Legal pluralism focuses on the rules governing this and recognizes that, even if such rules are formally instituted, social organization, jobs, projects, nation building, and so on also proceed through effective informal understandings and improvisations. Following a checkered history since the colonial period, the concept of legal pluralism currently makes reference to the whole aggregate of norms of social life and control, using the distinctions people make even as they acknowledge an analytical distinction between the state and nonstate as different sites from which norms and rules emanate. Unlike its past focus on the law, anthropologists working in this field now focus less on special court cases, professional rationalizations, and contested forms of regulation than on everyday understandings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe international encyclopedia of anthropology
EditorsHilary Callan
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781118924396
ISBN (Print)9780470657225
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Legal pluralism
  • Anthropology


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