Legal pluralism is a concept that some sociologists and anthropologists have used since World War II to describe multiple layers of law, usually with different sources of legitimacy, that exist within a single state or society. The origins of the idea go back earlier in the twentieth century, however, to work by Eugen Ehrlich (1862–1922), Georges Gurvitch (1894–1965), Santi Romano (1875–1947), and others.

Today, sociolegal scholars in many countries frequently use the concept, and some believe it could serve as the basis for a general theory of law and society. There is a Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, which has published fifty issues through 2004. The current editor in chief, Gordon Woodman, teaches in the United Kingdom, but the UCLA African Studies Center in ...

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