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Custom as a Source of Law

ISBN13: 9780521721820
Published: October 2010
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Paperback
Price: £28.99

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A central puzzle in jurisprudence has been the role of custom in law. Custom is simply the practices and usages of distinctive communities.

But are such customs legally binding? Can custom be law, even before it is recognized by authoritative legislation or precedent? And, assuming that custom is a source of law, what are its constituent elements? Is proof of a consistent and long-standing practice sufficient, or must there be an extra ingredient - that the usage is pursued out of a sense of legal obligation, or, at least, that the custom is reasonable and efficacious?

And, most tantalizing of all, is custom a source of law that we should embrace in modern, sophisticated legal systems, or is the notion of law from below outdated, or even dangerous, today? This volume answers these questions through a rigorous multidisciplinary, historical, and comparative approach, offering a fresh perspective on custom's enduring place in both domestic and international law.

  • Most recent, comprehensive treatment of customary law in nearly a half-century
  • Interdisciplinary and comparative in scope
  • Combines jurisprudential perspectives on custom, with historical and doctrinal analysis
  • Examines customary law in both domestic law and international contexts

Part I. Customary Law in Perspective
1. Anthropology: custom in pre-literate societies
2. Culture: the western legal tradition of positivism
3. History: the common law and custom
4. Economics, socio-biology and psychology: the human impulse of custom

Part II. Custom in Domestic Legal Systems:
5. Family law
6. Property
7. Contracts
8. Torts
9. Constitutional law

Part III. Custom in International Law
10. Private international law: international commercial usage
11. Public international law: custom among nations
Conclusion: how and why custom endures