Law without Sanctions by Michael Barkun, a summary of the book

Essay by ZulaikhaCollege, Undergraduate September 2002

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Law without Sanctions by Michael Barkun describes customs that are behavioral patterns that transform into norms and are set as rules or laws. The book hardly describes law without sanctions as the title suggests. In fact, law and its effectiveness is hardly mentioned in the book 'till the very end. However, the book mentions the valuable meaning of law and the development of law in his view.

Customs can be looked as behaviors, which most people adopt because they are "modal tracks of behavioral events", as Michael Barkun says (p.82). Customs are paths of behavior that are followed. According to Barkun, law is regarded normative, in other words "prescriptive" or "value laden". Law states essential behavioral patterns.

Behavior becomes tinged with obligation, which are known as rules and rules restrict and define the way subjects of the law should perform. "Rules that are recognized to be normative should be traceable to their behavioral antecedents" (p.90).

We should be able to trace customary law to the practices that gave rise to them. Law is the imposition of one group's modal practices on another group. Law is fact oriented and a fact is an event, any entity or relationship that can be located specifically in a space and time. Law contains statements of modal behavior and it was from these obligatory norms arose. Second, law contains perceptual categories through which events can be abstracted and similarly dealt with; it has the capacity for generalization.

Aside from customs ripening into law, Barkun discusses a great deal about law as a third party. He regards law as a triadic relationship; an example of this is the involving of third person, like a mediator or an arbitrator. Barkun gives the example of explicit mediation. A mediator functions as a communicator between belligerents, it is an...