Crime and Custom in Savage Society

By Bronislaw D.Malinowski | Go to book overview

III SYSTEMS OF LAW IN CONFLICT

PRIMITIVE law is not a homogeneous, perfectly unified body of rules, based upon one principle developed into a consistent system. So much we know already from our previous survey of legal facts in the Trobriand Islands. The law of these natives consists on the contrary of a number of more or less independent systems, only partially adjusted to one another. Each of these -- matriarchy, father-right, the law of marriage, the prerogatives and duties of a chief and so on -- has a certain field completely its own, but it can also trespass beyond its legitimate boundaries. This results in a state of tense equilibrium with an occasional outbreak. The study of the mechanism of such conflicts between legal principles, whether overt or masked, is extremely instructive and it reveals to us the very nature of the social fabric in a primitive tribe. I shall therefore proceed now to the description of one or two occurrences and then to their analysis.

I shall describe first a dramatic event which illustrates the conflict between the main principle of law, Mother-right, and one of the strongest sentiments, paternal love, round which there cluster many usages,

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