Authority in Transnational Legal Theory
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Authority in Transnational Legal Theory

Theorising Across Disciplines

Edited by Roger Cotterrell and Maksymilian Del Mar

The increasing transnationalisation of regulation – and social life more generally – challenges the basic concepts of legal and political theory today. One of the key concepts being so challenged is authority. This discerning book offers a plenitude of resources and suggestions for meeting that challenge.
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Chapter 11: When transnational authority is contingent: three African instances

Sally Falk Moore


Three recent examples of the application of transnational legal authority in Africa are examined. They show that what purports to be fixed and authoritative law is frequently quite contingent. Two of the examples are formal court cases, the third is the relationship between donors and receivers in a programme of economic development. The theoretical frameworks employed to address these instances include: (1) treating situational occurrences as diagnostic events; (2) taking a general processual approach to society, treating it as a continuously ongoing entity experiencing dynamic shifts and continuities; and (3) giving weight to the relevant semi-autonomous social fields, i.e. to the common non-governmental social fields which generate and enforce their own rules. These are enforceable norms that are not official laws. In all of these examples events are publicly presented as the application of laws and rules, yet it is obvious that unacknowledged political issues play a major role in the outcome.

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