Since Karl Llewellyn (1893–1962) and E. Adamson Hoebel (1906–1993) published The Cheyenne Way (1941), social conflicts have become the main road for the discovery of law in stateless and preliterate societies, that is, in traditional societies lacking professional law. The “case,” that is, the conflict such as it is handled in public forums, became the unit of analysis for anthropological studies of law.

The Case Method

Llewellyn and Hoebel's intuition was a simple one. Since disputes are to be found in all societies, whether they have official courts, written rules, a legal profession, or not, to overcome the definitional problem concerning the existence of something called “law” in societies with no professional law, one should focus attention on the institutions designated to resolve conflicts, even though they ...

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