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

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

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

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

Excerpt

This book is both interdisciplinary and comparative, drawing on the literatures and techniques of anthropology and academic law, and on data and concepts developed in the social study of law in the United States and India as well as in its primary locus of study, Yugoslavia. These characteristics may occasionally make parts of the book heavy going for those who suddenly find themselves reading outside of their accustomed disciplinary or area boundaries, but I hope that such readers will make the effort to handle the unfamiliar material. In the social study of legal phenomena, understanding of the formal structures of the institutions in question and of the ideological constructs that inform them is essential if the social analysis is to succeed. At the same time, it is also necessary to avoid the trap of seeing as unique phenomena that in fact have close parallels in other societies and settings. The wide scope of this book is meant to meet both of these tasks, and thus to give general meaning to the study of a particular manifestation of Yugoslav socialist legality.

This general orientation is even more necessary as this Preface is written, since the phenomenon of "actually existing socialism" in Europe seems to be coming to an abrupt end, and its Yugoslav variant of self-management is also unlikely to survive in the form that it exhibited when the research for this book was undertaken. Yet the institutions of socialist law, and particularly the Yugoslav self-management court systems, will continue to hold more than a historical interest for those who study law as a social phenomenon, since many of the ideals of socialist legality are found in other legal and social systems, including that of modern America.

In view of the potential for major changes in Yugoslav society and law, however, it is necessary to state that this study represents an "ethnographic present" of the early to mid-1980s. The ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in 1982-83, with some follow-up in 1984, and developments in self-management law were followed through 1986. For later years, only the most important developments in Yu-

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