Bidirectional Legal Socialization and the Boundaries of Law: The Case of Enclave Communities’ Compliance with COVID-19 Regulations
77(2) Journal of Social Issues 631-662 (2021)
43 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2021 Last revised: 2 Jul 2021
Date Written: March 4, 2021
COVID-19 has challenged people worldwide to comply with strict lock-downs and meticulous healthcare instructions. Can states harness enclave communities to comply with the law in such crucial times, even when compliance conflicts with communal sources of authority? We investigated this question through the case of Israeli ultra-Orthodox schools compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
Drawing on semi-structured interviews with school principals, documents and media sources, and a field survey, we found that the state has the capacity to quickly internalize new norms and harness the cooperation of previously suspicious communities. At the same time, we found that communal authorities were able to shield widespread communal defiance from legal enforcement. These findings expose the bidirectionality of legal socialization: As the community uses its defiance power to attenuate the law, it socializes public authorities to accede to their bounded authority. As public authorities come to realize that the community cannot be brought to full compliance, they curtail enforcement efforts and socialize the community to operate outside the law.
This paper was prepared for the Journal on Social Issues special issue on legal socialization, marking the first 50 years of research on this highly influential theory. Our findings animate the reciprocity assumption in legal socialization theory and highlight one of the crucial tasks for the next 50 years of research: to examine the bidirectionality of legal socialization and discover its socio-legal effects.
Keywords: Legal socialization, bounded authority, enclave communities, reciprocity, underenforcement, law and religion, law and policy, ultra-Orthodox community, COVID-19
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