The Diffusion of Rights: From Law on the Books to Organizational Rights Practices

By Barnes, Jeb; Burke, Thomas F. | Law & Society Review, September 2006 | Go to article overview

The Diffusion of Rights: From Law on the Books to Organizational Rights Practices


Barnes, Jeb, Burke, Thomas F., Law & Society Review


How does law change society? To gain new leverage on this long-standing question, this article draws on two lines of research that often ignore each other: political science research on the mobilization of law, and sociological research on the diffusion of organizational practices. Our insights stem from six case studies of diverse organizations' responses to the accommodation provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act and related state laws. We found that different modes of exposure to the law combined with organizational attributes to produce distinct "rights practices"-styles of standard operating procedures and informal routines that reflect the understanding of legal requirements within an organization. The diversity of the organizational responses challenges simple dichotomies between compliance/noncompliance, change through deterrence/change through norms, and mobilization/nonmobilization, and it underscores the importance of combining political science and sociological perspectives on law and social change.

Law is intensifying within economically advanced democracies across the globe (Galanter 1992; Dewees et al. 1991). As Kagan (2001:6) has noted, this growth stems from deep-seated features of modern industrialized societies-technological change, global competition, geographic mobility, and environmental degradation -that produce unforeseen social and economic dislocation, threats to health and job security, and clashes among cultural and ethnic identities. These risks, in turn, often generate conflicting political demands, as those who embrace change seek rights of inclusion, political access, and economic opportunity, while others who fear change demand legal shelter from new threats and harms. Legislatures and courts both in the United States and abroad have tended to respond to both sets of demands, providing layer upon layer of rights and legal protections (Kagan 1995, 2001; Schuck 2000:42).

The social consequences of this intensification of law, however, are unclear. They depend on the extent to which all this law filters into the nooks and crannies of social life. And as several decades of law and society research have shown, the relationship between law on the books and law on the streets is almost never straightforward. The proliferation of legal commands, then, returns us to one of the classic questions in sociolegal studies: how does law change society?

This article takes a fresh look at this question, bringing together two lines of research that have often ignored one another: one in political science on the mobilization of the law, the other in sociology on the diffusion of organizational practices. We draw our insights from six original case studies of the response of diverse public and private sector organizations within a single community to the accommodation regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; 1990) and related state laws, as well as interviews with lawyers, architects, consultants, and disability rights advocates.

We found that, despite differences in the specific rules governing the organizations in our study, key interpreters of the law within these organizations articulated a similar understanding of the rules: namely, the ADA and related state laws required them to make reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. When pressed, they demonstrated little detailed understanding of the rules, including possible exceptions or defenses to the ADA's broad accommodation mandates.

While personnel across organizations shared a similar conception of the law, their organizations encountered the ADA in different ways. Some were forced to respond to an ADA-based complaint, others had to fulfill ADA regulations in order to receive a building permit, and still others experienced the ADA only as a generalized legal threat or a potential source of litigation. We found that these different modes of exposure to the law combined with the organizations' resources to produce different styles of response to the ADA. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Diffusion of Rights: From Law on the Books to Organizational Rights Practices
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.