Cover image for Law in brief encounters
Law in brief encounters
Reisman, W. Michael (William Michael), 1939-
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 225 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
K380 .R445 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Even in our most casual encounters with strangers--when we are looking at each other, talking, or standing in line--legal systems with elaborate codes, authorized exceptions, and procedures for sanctioning deviance operate with a remarkable degree of success. In this pathbreaking book, Michael Reisman describes how law is an integral and indispensable part of every social interaction. The private sphere or civic order that the liberal state is committed to preserving and in which it tries to refrain from legislating, says Reisman, is not a legal vacuum but the zone of microlaw--some of it just, some unsatisfactory, and some tyrannical.

Interweaving numerous real-life examples with a detailed review of the scientific literature of many disciplines, Reisman shows the extent to which microlegal systems function in our own lives. More important, he draws on the criteria of ethics and legal philosophy to demonstrate that, paradoxically, efforts to improve microlaw may threaten the very autonomy of the private sphere that is central to the liberal state.

Author Notes

W. Michael Reisman is the McDougal Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Legal studies usually focus almost exclusively on the state control of social systems, but in this pathbreaking work, Reisman (law, Yale Univ.) takes a bold new approach, analyzing "microlegal systems"Äextralegal social systems that provide a minimal and fundamental level of social control without ever resorting to the courtroom. When, Reisman wonders, should the "regular" law back off from (or intercede in) microlegal encounters? ("Regular" law does, for example, regulate microlegal encounters like sexual harrassment in the workplace.) To illustrate his thesis that "microlaw" is a fundamental but inadequately understood part of our culture, he describes with precision the social acts of looking and staring, standing in line, and talking, each of which has its own set of complex rules and sanctions. This scholarly work is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.ÄSteven Anderson, Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander, Towson, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.