Law in Brief Encounters


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W. Michael Reisman

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Even in our most casual encounters with strangers—when we are looking at each other, talking, or standing in line—legal systems with elaborate codes, authorized exceptions, and procedures for sanctioning deviance operate with a remarkable degree of success. In this pathbreaking book, Michael Reisman describes how law is an integral and indispensable part of every social interaction. The private sphere or civic order that the liberal state is committed to preserving and in which it tries to refrain from legislating, says Reisman, is not a legal vacuum but the zone of microlaw—some of it just, some unsatisfactory, and some tyrannical.

Interweaving numerous real-life examples with a detailed review of the scientific literature of many disciplines, Reisman shows the extent to which microlegal systems function in our own lives. More important, he draws on the criteria of ethics and legal philosophy to demonstrate that, paradoxically, efforts to improve microlaw may threaten the very autonomy of the private sphere that is central to the liberal state.

W. Michael Reisman is the McDougal Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

"This work is a gem, a delight and pleasure to read."—James B. Jacobs, New York University School of Law

"Important and pathbreaking, this book offers a concise presentation of novel ideas."—Walter O. Weyrauch, University of Florida College of Law

"Analyzing the underlying, understated legal transactions that occur between people in everyday life, W. Michael Reisman treats social phenomena through legal concepts in Law in Brief Encounters."—Publishers Weekly

"In this pathbreaking work, Reisman takes a bold new approach, analyzing 'microlegal systems'—extralegal social systems that provide a minimal and fundamental level of social control without ever resorting to the courtroom. . . . This scholarly work is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries."—Library Journal

"The subject matter is novel, the treatment subtle, the analysis compelling."—Michael Beloff, Time Literary Supplement

"Law in Brief Encounters is a cogent and lucid analysis of how authoritative rules, elaborate codes , and sanctions operate to create what he calls micro legal systems. . . . This book is a rich and rewarding analysis of life in mass society as a series of micro situations (looking at others, talking, standing in line, and the like), often with strangers who collectively produce micro legal environments. . . . This stimulating, well-written scholarly discussion of civic order will interest any social scientist and should be read by all those interested in the role of law in society. It should be required reading for law students and undergraduates seriously interested in law school."—Peter J. Bergerson, Perspectives on Political Science

"Compelling."—Stephen Bates, Wilson Quarterly

ISBN: 9780300075694
Publication Date: July 11, 1999
240 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Regulating Covert Action

W. Michael Reisman and James E. Baker

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