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Law, Time, and Community

David M. Engel
Law & Society Review
Vol. 21, No. 4 (1987), pp. 605-638
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Law and Society Association
DOI: 10.2307/3053598
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3053598
Page Count: 33
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Law, Time, and Community
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Abstract

Research concerning law and social change has almost always treated time as a universal constant and a baseline against which variations in behavior can be measured. Yet a significant literature exists demonstrating that researchers can also regard time as a socially constructed phenomenon requiring analytic interpretation in its own right. This article explores two aspects of the human experience of time that were especially important for the residents of a rural American community: the sense of time's iterative character and its linear or irreversible quality. These two ways of experiencing and conceptualizing time played a significant part in efforts by residents of Sander County, Illinois, to define their community and interpret the social, cultural, and economic transformations it was undergoing. They were also important in the residents' efforts to frame and define conflict within the community and to determine when law should or should not be invoked. The article examines some ways in which the analysis of varying conceptions of time within a community can enhance understanding of expectations, perceptions, and values concerning law in a changing society.

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