Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand (The Cultural Lives of Law)

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Diverse societies are now connected by globalization, but how do ordinary people feel about law as they cope day-to-day with a transformed world? Tort, Custom, and Karma examines how rapid societal changes, economic development, and integration into global markets have affected ordinary people’s perceptions of law, with a special focus on the narratives of men and women who have suffered serious injuries in the province of Chiangmai, Thailand.

This work embraces neither the conventional view that increasing global connections spread the spirit of liberal legalism, nor its antithesis that backlash to interconnection leads to ideologies such as religious fundamentalism. Instead, it looks specifically at how a person’s changing ideas of community, legal justice, and religious belief in turn transform the role of law particularly as a viable form of redress for injury. This revealing look at fundamental shifts in the interconnections between globalization, state law, and customary practices uncovers a pattern of increasing remoteness from law that deserves immediate attention.

One thought on “Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand (The Cultural Lives of Law)

  1. 1
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Tit for Tat?, January 14, 2011

    This review is from: Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand (The Cultural Lives of Law) (Paperback)

    Ronald Reagan was once quoted saying that “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” If one were to translate this quote into Thai and ask both rural and urban residents of Thailand what they think of this quote they would likely agree with the former President of the United States. They wouldn’t agree simply because they think government is bad or that the entire legal system should be overhauled, but the way that personal injuries are handled in Thailand has taken a system built around customs and religions, and made it completely impersonal and foreign.

    In Tort, Custom, and Karma, authors David and Jaruwan Engel clearly explain through case examples how the Thai people for centuries relied upon elders in communities to determine outcomes surrounding personal injuries.
    * Obligations were met because, as the authors explain, individuals were compelled by religious beliefs, customs, and social norms in their communities.
    * The primary reason for the breakdown in how obligations are met has not been due to just government interference, or because of new laws and regulations, but also because people were more able to move away from their communities where they were raised and felt the personal obligation to do the right thing or risk embarrassing your family and family name.
    * Thai people still denounce seeking compensation merely for compensation’s sake. The Thai roots deeply in Buddhist beliefs see this type of behavior as the crux for bad karma.

    This book is interesting for the casual reader wanting to learn more about the connection of religion and law in Thailand. It would have been exceedingly interesting to learn about the impact of Buddhism upon labor and private property right laws as well, and the resulting financial impact upon businesses and communities due to Buddhist teachings.

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