State, Society and the Relations Between Them: Implications for the Study of Legal Pluralism

Ido Shahar


This Article examines the implicit assumptions about the state and state-society relations that pervade the literature on legal pluralism. I argue that much of this literature rests on an underlying conception of the state as a monolithic entity which is clearly and objectively differentiated from society. Most notably, John Griffiths’ influential distinction between "weak" legal pluralism, which exists within the boundaries of the state, and "strong" legal pluralism, which involves both state and non-state legal orders, reflects such assumptions. I contend that an alternative conceptualization of the state, which acknowledges the internal diversity and contradictions within the state and the blurred boundaries between state and society, can serve as a more productive basis for the study of legal pluralism. Such an approach draws attention to the socially constructed character of the boundaries between state and non-state legal orders, to the social significance of intra-state legal pluralism, to the points of view of individual litigants who maneuver between different courts of law, and to the institutional level of analysis, namely, the complex interrelations between different courts under conditions of legal pluralism.

Full Text: