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"The Development of Socio-Legal Theory",
A review of Social Theory and African Tribal Organization by Carroll Quigley in Xxxxxxx, xxxx 1969,
of a book.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIO-LEGAL THEORY,
by Kenneth S. Carlston. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1968.

 

"The Development of Socio-Legal Theory"

 

 
Kenneth S. Carlston,
Social Theory and African Tribal Organization: The Development of Socio-Legal Theory.
Pp. 462. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1968. $10.00.



   The major part of this book (pp. 95-378) is an ethnographic survey of thirteen African tribes, based on the standard accounts, such as Evans-Pritchard on the Nuer, Huntingford on the Nandi, and Busia on the Ashanti. The resulting surveys, similar to G. P. Murdock's African Cultural Summaries include much that is not relevant and omit much which is essential to Carlston's spacial concern with the role of law in terms of social organization and social action.

   The ethnographic summaries are followed by 35 pages of "Findings", 274 numbered statements listed under six general topics, each "Finding" followed by a code reference to the relevant ethnographic summaries. Finding 6.2.8. reads: Disputes between members of a small kinship group, notably the family, are settled within the group by its head" (followed by code references to eleven of the summaries). A final chapter lists thirteen numbered "Modern Implications". Of these #7 might be quoted: "No viable structure of social action embracing all the peoples of the world and no final solution of the problem of war can be reached until all such peoples share the perception of the dignity and worth of the individual and his personal right to respect."

   Carlston has been professor of law at the University of Illinois since 1946, following eighteen years of legal practice in international petroleum cases. He is deeply concerned with questions on the nature of law and its relationship to social structure; especially as this is related to war and disorder. His earlier books and present volume show his wide reading and deep concern with this subject, but they also reveal his lack of training in the necessary social science methodology for handling such complex subjects.

   This failure is evident in the early chapters of this volume where Carlston explains the framework and method of his project. He has no real understanding of how human beings or social groups function, nor how these are inter-related. His view of social life as the "organization of action" is all the style today in sociology, but he has no real grasp of what this means (in comparison with a work like Amibai Etzioni's recent The Active Society),

   Moreover, Carlston has no adequate epistemology or workable picture of reality. He speaks (p.15) of the individual living in two worlds: "the subjective, unconscious world and the world of reality", as if the unconscious were not real. He assumes (p. 15) that reality is structured as assumed by our Western cognitive system and, accordingly, that tribal life can be expressed accurately in our terms. He is fully aware of the role of magic and witchcraft in tribal life, yet he speaks (p.14) of "the omnipotence of the spiritual world" to a native and does not recognize that omnipotence (with its companion idea of transcendental) is part of our outlook, not theirs. He is aware of the importance of epistemology in comparative law (p. 54), but has no real grasp of the issue and shows, for example, none of the skill in this area shown by a man like J.C. Smith in C.S. Northrup's Cross-Cultural Understanding, (1964), pp. 254-283.

   In sum, it must be recorded that hard work, courageous effort at perspective, and good will have not been able to overcome weaknesses of ethnocentricity, weak epistemology, and lack of sociological understanding in this ambitious volume.

-Carroll Quigley

 

Scans of original review

1  2

 

 

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