Malinowski’s Multidimensional Conception of Law: Beyond Common Misunderstandings

  • Mateusz StępieńEmail author


Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) is undoubtedly one of the titans of social sciences. He strongly influenced the shape of modern cultural anthropology and is considered to be the inventor of the participant observation method. His concepts of language, magic, religion, and culture are still to this day a subject of study and a source of inspiration. However, we cannot say the same about his conception of law. Although Edward A. Hoebel stressed that Malinowski’s ideas are a “challenge to the jurisprudence” (1946, p. 851), nobody took up the challenge and, as yet, his conception of law has not even been fairly reconstructed or recapitulated by researchers. There is a huge disparity between the wide reception given to Malinowski’s works that are not directly related to law, and the little interest in his legal writings. A glance at the existing literature illustrates how little has been written on Malinowski’s Conception of Law (Seagle 1937; Hoebel 1954, pp. 177–210; Schapera 1957; Conley and O’Barr 2002; Kurczewski 2009, 2012; Tuori 2015, pp. 110–117). The few authors that cite his legal thoughts use elements of his conception of law selectively, and Malinowski is virtually ignored by the legal sciences. It is rarely referred to in the legal sciences and only a handful of adherents were truly inspired by his legal thoughts.


Moral Norm Epistemological Belief Normative Phenomenon Primitive Society Legal Thought 
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology of LawJagiellonian UniversityKrakowPoland

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