Reciprocity as a species of fairness: Completing Malinowski’s theory of law

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Throughout his career Bronislaw Malinowski attempted to construct a theory that would support the position that law is necessarily shared by all human societies rather than an achievement of only a privileged few. His initial effort in Crime and Custom in Savage Society intended reciprocity to be the psychological mechanism that would lead inevitably to the formation of legal institutions. For reasons reviewed here, this solution failed largely because the understanding of reciprocity available to Malinowski was too crude to perform the theoretical work he required. By enriching the statements of Crime and Custom with later concepts such as altruistic punishment, we can now fulfill Malinowski’s goal of a general theory of law that results in its treatment as a cultural universal.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBronislaw Malinowski's Concept of Law
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319420257
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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