Review Of "Living Without Law: An Ethnography Of Quaker Decision-Making, Dispute Avoidance And Dispute Resolution" By A. Bradney And F. Cownie

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Based upon an intensive yearlong study of decision making within a British Quaker meeting of 200 members, Bradney and Cownie (law, Univ. of Leicester) seek to determine whether Friends have a nonstate system of law by which they regulate their community. "Quaker laws" (norms of conduct used by Friends to make decisions) allegedly illustrate the existence of legal pluralism within modern industrial society; they are noncoercive and often ignore or contradict the state's legal system. Quakers create and maintain their laws by valuing all participants and giving them voice in making decisions. The authors argue that Friends' principles are not applicable to the practice of conflict resolution, since Quaker methods are designed to avoid disputes rather than to settle them. Bradney and Cownie include a discussion of the literature on legal pluralism and the methods social anthropologists use in doing ethnography, along with a competent summary of British Quaker history and present beliefs and practices. The book would have been strengthened by comparing decision making at a local level with more controversial subjects debated at national gatherings of Friends. Findings also seem more applicable to British Friends, who have managed to stay united, than to schismatic American Quakers. Recommended for law libraries and graduate collections dealing with dispute resolution and religious studies.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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