Menachem Mautner (Tel Aviv University) has posted an interesting survey of contemporary approaches to law and culture. He summarizes the three schools of thought: (1) culture constitutes law, a view that goes back to Savigny and the German historical school; (2) law constitutes culture, a view associated with Clifford Geertz; and (3) law as a distinct cultural system. To my mind, the best view is one that combines these approaches. One could hardly deny that law influences social behavior – otherwise, why bother? – but it seems obvious that culture affects law as well. As Herodotus observed long ago, nations have different histories, economies, religions, and ways of doing things. Their laws differ, too.
Steve Bainbridge has a nice post on a paper by David Skeel dealing with the Dodd-Frank Act, in which Skeel “consider[s] the legislation from a distinctly Christian perspective.” Professor Bainbridge concludes his post with these thoughts about the varieties of law and religion scholarship:
- Studies of how the law impacts religion. This probably is the dominant form of law and religion scholarship, but it’s really mostly Constitutional law dealing with the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment. Not really distinctively Christian.
- Critiques of policy recommendations made by religious figures. This is what I mostly do in the law and religion field. Where US Catholic Bishops have made legal and regulatory proposals grounded in Catholic social thought, for example, there is a space for distinctively Christian legal scholarship that engages those proposals not only from secular grounds like economics but also from theological perspectives.
- Christian critiques of laws like Dodd-Frank. This is the area where I think it is hardest to do something that is both rigorous and distinctively Christian. As far as I can tell, for example, there’s very little in either the Bible or the Magisterium that would help me answer the question of whether executive compensation at TARP recipient firms should be capped. Read more
Renowned sociologist of religion and religious studies scholar Robert Bellah has just published an important-looking (and, at 784 pages, hefty) new book, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age. Among many reasons, Bellah is well-known for his functionalist approach to the meaning of religion (fathered by Durkheim) and his work on “civil religion.” This latest work looks to be a monumental contribution. HUP’s description after the jump. — MOD