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The Common Place of Law

Stories from Everyday Life

Why do some people not hesitate to call the police to quiet a barking dog in the middle of the night, while others accept the pain and losses associated with defective products, unsuccesful surgery, and discrimination? Patricia Ewick and Susan Silbey collected accounts of the law from more than four hundred people of diverse backgrounds in order to explore the different ways that people use and experience it. Their fascinating and original study identifies three common narratives of law that are captured in the stories people tell.

One narrative is based on an idea of the law as magisterial and remote. Another views the law as a game with rules that can be manipulated to one’s advantage. A third narrative describes the law as an arbitrary power that is actively resisted. Drawing on these extensive case studies, Ewick and Silbey present individual experiences interwoven with an analysis that charts a coherent and compelling theory of legality. A groundbreaking study of law and narrative, The Common Place of Law depicts the institution as it is lived: strange and familiar, imperfect and ordinary, and at the center of daily life.

336 pages | 2 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Chicago Series in Law and Society

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Culture Studies

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Sociology: General Sociology

Table of Contents

Pt. 1: Introduction
1: Millie Simpson
2: The Common Place of Law
3: The Social Construction of Legality
Pt. 2: Stories of Legal Consciousness: Constructing Legality
4: Before the Law
Rita Michaels
Dwayne Franklin
Standing before the Law
5: With the Law
Charles Reed
Nikos Stavros
Playing with the Law
6: Against the Law
Bess Sherman
Jamie Leeson
Up against the Law
Pt. 3: Conclusions
7: Mystery and Resolution: Reconciling the Irreconcilable
8: Consciousness and Contradiction
App. A: Research Strategies and Methods
App. B: Who’s Who in the Text


Sociology of Law section, American Sociological Association: Distinguished Book Award
Honorable Mention

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