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Lawyers, legal philosophers, and political theorists, not to mention ordinary folk, typically consider links between law and the state to be intimate, unseverable, and uncontroversial. Lively questions remain about the point of law, whether these are descriptive questions—what does law do?—or normative ones—what should it do? Questions about law's proper location or source, however, are rare. The assumption is that law is found in the institutionalized, centralized, and legally coordinated offices of the state.

The major contribution of law and society studies to this discussion might be called cartographic. Researchers in this area have cast doubt on the common assumption that law and state need always be thought of as fused, like Siamese twins, as in the communist theoretical couplet, “theory of state and law.” For ...

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