Abra Logar

Polisci 222

April, 2005

 

Indivisible?

 

            When people speak of glaw and the community,h they are always spoken of in such a manner as to separate the two, as apples and oranges, oil and water, alkali and acid.  One may be an influence on the other, and vice-versa, but what is seldom considered is that indeed, elawf and ecommunityf are two things that have become so intertwined that it is almost impossible to extricate them from each other.  One cannot in truth exist without the other; it is a symbiotic relationship that has grown up since the dawn of time, and they are in fact key to maintaining each other.

            Law has been a fundamental part of human communities since time out of mind; we have records of law that date back to the earliest written histories of man.  Law is the root, the foundation, that which gives structure to community.  It is a codified set of rule that can be enforced by eoutsidef imposition; hopefully, it is an impartial one, applying equally to all that it affects, but this is not always the case.

            Community, on the other hand, is the leaves and branches of human society; it is the house that is built upon the foundation provided by law.  Whereas law provides a handful of firm ground rules to govern peoplefs interactions with each other, it is the community that provides the greater part of the substance of human society.  Community is the structure that most people interact with on a regular basis; although not necessarily so in a larger, more urban society, in a small community, the strictures of community can be more important than actual law.  It is worth noting that this is far from always the case; in Engelfs Sander County for instance, it is clear that the people – the established, non-marginal members of the community – have no qualms about utilizing the structure of the law when it suits them:

gThe contrast between reactions to claims based on breaches of contract and those based on personal injuries is especially striking.  Contract actions in the Sander County Court were nearly ten times as numerous as personal injury actions.  They involved, for the most part, efforts to collect payment for sales, services, and loans.h (48)

            It is apparent from the text that eacceptablef litigation is that which is viewed as functioning to keep society running smoothly; the place of the law is to keep the community together, not to break it apart.  The people of Sander County viewed tort suits to be divisive and un-neighborly.  In contrast, contract suits were regarded as just business.  In this double standard of perception however, lies the seeds of divisiveness as well; for those marginal members of the community, often law is the only recourse.  Still, occasionally, dispute is necessary to keep the wheels rolling, as it were.

            In spite of that, law and community are inextricably intertwined; the people of Sander County seek to use the law to their advantage (and the perceived advantage of the community), without fostering dissension.  In seeking to use the law only to (in their eyes) uphold and maintain the standards of the community, they make plain the inherent connection between the two.

            Indeed, the connection between law and community goes farther than mere local more; a number of laws, and Supreme Court decisions have rested on the current standards of the community.  Because although community is built upon the foundation of law, it is not a foundation set in stone.  Through sheer pressure, ecommunityf can eventually change the law, alter things that no longer conform to the overall standards.  Likewise, in order to affect a broad, sweeping change to the house of community, you must change the shape of the foundation; a small foundation cannot support a large house, after all.

Especially in American society, is law indivisible from community; our nation was founded under a distinct set of laws, which outlined, the behavior of many people in relation to each other. And indeed, our nation was founded because the standards of British law no longer met the community standards of America; a prime (if often overlooked) example of community influencing the shape of law.

            One of the most important things about law in relation to the community is that it provides a sense of continuity.  Even if the precise nature of the law has changed, itfs still the same document that governed your grandparents, and their grandparents.  In the case of some documents, such as the Constitution, the document has been changed and amended, but it still exists, in essentially the same form as it has for two hundred years.  With this sort of stability, a community can go about its normal business, without needing constant recourse to legalities; people are brought up with these things in their consciousness, and thus they often have no reason to go looking for the law – itfs always right there, in the underpinnings of society.