The Law in context. Can the Law, as a science, be divorced from value-systems and social norms like most other sciences? Answered using South African law as a case-study.

Essay by onebigsecretUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, February 2003

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I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition that the law and legal institutions cannot be divorced from the value system of the society in which it operates. This is evident in that the single entity to which all law in South Africa is subject (the Constitution) is based, almost entirely on the ideals and values of what is seen to be the South African public. In the first provision stated in the Constitution, it is given that the Republic of South Africa is " sovereign, democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights." In other words, ideally, every single law in South Africa may not infringe on the above rights vested in them by the Constitution. This means that the law is subject to, essentially, the voice of the people and to the values with which the majority of people deem to be veritable.

It is evident in South Africa's turbulent history that the law and legal institutions are directly based upon the value systems of the society at the time as it is today.

There are several questions to be addressed. First I shall address the issue of whether or not the law and legal institutions are based upon the value systems in which they operate by establishing the objectives of the law and how these are influenced by value systems. I shall then review the legal institutions of Customary law and 'indirect rule', concentrating specifically on the period between 1902 (the British occupation of the Cape) and 1927 (the codification of Customary law) and concentrating on the areas of the Cape and Natal. Subsequently, I shall compare the law of this period to the value systems present at the time in order to illustrate the dependence of the...