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Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly. Volume 57, Number 4 (2006), p. 654-672


governance; Legal Pluralism; transnational


This article will take up the conversation about legal pluralism in the context of debates over transnational governance, where legal pluralism has of late attracted considerable attention. Legal pluralism has its roots in legal sociology and anthropology, and particularly in the study of the co-existence of non-state, customary law or community norms with formal law. In the transnational context, this original focus is expanded to include the coexistence, within a particular territory, of multiple normative regimes, local, national and international. What is important to note, however, is that in this shift the conceptual orientation of the term remains the same: the effort to provide an empirically accurate description of multiple positive legal orders. That is, legal pluralism is conventionally utilized to identify a relevant attribute of the social fields in which law operates. So, most recent considerations of ‘global legal pluralism’ either invoke or illustrate the multiple, diverse and possibly even contested sources of law in transnational arenas, and argue for their growing sociological significance. As I will elaborate below, while legal multiplicity is highlighted and even valorized in some of these accounts, their analytic reach is circumscribed by a positive conception of law itself.

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