Social Courts in Theory and Practice: Yugoslav Workers' Courts in Comparative Perspective

By Robert M. Hayden | Go to book overview

Notes
Chapter 1: Introduction
The problem may be even more complex, in that those who concentrate on one part of one of the larger world areas are frequently not conversant with the work of others in that same area. Thus North Indianists often ignore South India, while both neglect China; and the ignorance of Soviet specialists about Eastern Europe is often profound. This situation is itself sometimes deplored by those at the center of the wider area-studies enterprises (see, e.g., Murphy 1988). Ironically, there may be something of a the-grass-is-greener tendency in such comments: Murphy's suggestion ( 1988:753) that East Europeanists and Slavicists, among others, engage in more intraregional comparisons than do Asianists may come as news to the former (see, e.g., Motyl 1989).
Note that I say should change; often it seems that "common sense" on any topic can be changed only slowly, perhaps because of its resonance with political (and hence social) hegemony (see Hayden 1987).
In regard to socialist legal institutions, this problem is compounded by the potential political biases of supposedly empirical work on the institutions of regimes widely perceived as hostile to human rights. Works on this topic often exhibit either a blind acceptance and glorification of socialist legality or an equally blind hostility to it. While accepting the basic premise that no scientific work is ever completely apolitical, the present study aims to belong to what Christopher Osakwe ( 1987:1259) has identified in the Introduction to a symposium on socialist law as the "school of analytical detachment," which "carefully searches for the comparable merits and demerits of socialist law." Readers in both Yugoslavia and "the West" may judge for themselves the extent to which this goal is obtained.
Of course, this approach is not uncontroversial: in anthropology (and in other fields), it is currently denigrated by some writers as "orientalism" (see, e.g., Inden 1986), borrowing the term from Edward Said's brilliant polemic ( 1978) on the implicit politics of Western studies of Eastern cultures, which often presume European superiority over those others. Yet this problem may be inherent in any effort at cross-cultural, comparative study (see Minear 1980), and the alternative to comparison is apparently to construct increasingly detailed analyses of incomparable others. This exercise may avoid the misrepresentation of The Other, but leads to a hermetic scholarship of each "other" in splendid isolation. This would seem to doom scholarly work that is truly comparative in the broader sense, which seems pointless. Is the intellectual community likely to benefit more from a scholarship of incomparable

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