"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,
Kenneth S. Carlston.
Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press,
"The Development of Socio-Legal
Kenneth S. Carlston,
Social Theory and African Tribal Organization: The Development of
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.
Scans of original review