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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Donald Black's The Behavior of Law is not for the faint of heart. Mr. Black, a professor of sociology at Yale University, first published his mini-textbook some 40 years ago, yet it remains a staple in law classrooms. The book's inviting purple cover and thin spine beckon many a weary college student to flip through its crisp white pages and read what they/we believe will be an "easy-read" due to its size. However, don't let him fool you - the pages are full of well-researched and fascinating ideas that can make one's head spin. Yet it is still intriguing all the same - I for one can say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this text book cover to cover!

Black argues that behavior is a part of reality, and therefore all things behave including society. He thus breaks down society into 5 subsections (which also are the titles of the chapters of his book): stratification, morphology, culture, organization, and social control (he also has a chapter on anarchy, however does not include that in his groupings of society). One must be asking how law fits in here.

Black goes on to describe law as governmental social control - the inevitable and unavoidable. This can get a bit confusing and wordy. However, once out of the introduction chapter and on to the meaty chapters, or those that contain the bulk of his argument in example and descriptive terms, Black's argument becomes very clear and, dare I say, easy to understand. He gets right to the point every time, gives clear examples, explains them in relation to his argument and even calls up counter arguments which further solidify his argument, as well as the reader's understanding of Black's concepts. One of the unique aspects of Black's book that only further adds to its appeal is his use of basic and easy-to-understand examples. Country-specific and modern societal references help the reader to relate Black's argument to that which they know and understand, further assisting in the overall comprehension of the book.

This book helps readers to understand the many correlations between law and society, as well as the law itself (particularly the US system), its functions, its role, its evolution and its adaptability. Lastly, you don't have to be a lawyer or an ivy-league professor to read this book - anyone can pick it up and understand the argument that Black is making because we witness the phenomena he describes every day. This may not be the best vacation book to read while on the beach, but if you ever have a spare weekend, sit down, grab a pen and get ready to annotate this book with your own free flowing ideas. I can guarantee you won't regret it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Donald Black's investigation into the behavior of law presents readers with a thorough examination of the characteristics of law, framed within the greater context of society. His meticulously constructed language, well defined parameters, and simple italicized phrases make this book a slow, but educational read. His scientific writing style forces readers to pay attention to every last word. This dense language achieves a high level of efficiency that allows Black to pack his complicated set of propositions into only 137 pages of text.

The format of the book is easy enough to follow; Black lays down his five characteristics of society (Stratification, Morphology, Culture, Organization and Social Control), and describes their connections to law. Each characteristic is assigned a chapter in which Black makes several propositions about how variances within the characteristic affects the quantity of law. It is this idea of quantity that sets Black apart from others. Rather than seeking to uncover any causations, he sticks to the simple correlations between law and society. After each proposition, Black provides an in-depth explanation as well as examples from societies around the world to back up his claims.

Even before Black states his arguments, He is careful to define every word he uses. He defines law, quantity of law, stratification, and so on. Also, includes a chapter on anarchy before the conclusion of his book.

The book is sure to make readers aware of the empirical disjunction between law and justice in America as well as other societies.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to have a new perspective on law, and how it operates as a subset of society.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Black explains us how law - that supreme controller of our behavior - itself behaves (or variates) through history and across the world! Actually he is only telling us some of the basic findings of the sociology of justice, but his crisp and courageously reductive way to present his generalizations is really stimulating. The behavioral space of law (so to speak) - from pure anarchy to an all-pervading rule of law - is structured with few central variables (stratification, culture, other forms of social control...) Simple conceptualization is however coupled with short yet interesting, often colorful, examples about respective rules. But Black doesn't try to do too much with his generalizations (certainly no absolute quantification is attempted), so I found them in no way unduly simplistic. An interesting and originally crafted map to (at least some of) the basics of the sociology of justice.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a clear and engaging introduction to the epistemology and model with which Black revolutionizes the discipline of sociology. It can be read and benefitted from in merely a few sittings, but is so intense and unique that it takes years to digest and appreciate fully. Anyone interested in sociology, in theory, in law, or in science should engage this work and reconsider much of what they think - about those topics, and about reality in general. Tremendous accomplishment!!
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
In The Behavior of the Law (1976), As for the quantity of law Donald Black attempts to formulate propositions that "explain the quantity and style of law in every setting (pp. 6)." (which he defines as governmental social control), he argues that it can be measured by the amount and scope of legal prohibitions-and obligations-to which people are subject. As Black says, any "initiation, invocation, or application" of law can be considered an increase (Black, pp. 3). In this regard, the theory is meant to explain the law without reference to the individual. 1. Stratification 2. Morphology 3. Culture 4. Organization 5. Social Control With law as his dependent variable, Black asserts that there are five independent variables that can provide us with an understanding of the amount, scope, and style of law in human affairs-at any time and place. These independent variables are: (1) Stratification, (2) Morphology, (3) Culture, (4) Organ! ization, and (5) Social Control.
Black (1976) argues that each of these variables are independent of the others and that it is possible to apply all of them at once when explaining the behavior of the law (ibid., pp. 2). Black defines these crucial variables as follows: Stratification is the vertical aspect of social life, or any uneven distribution of the conditions of existence, such as food, access to land or water, and money. Morphology is the horizontal aspect, or the distribution of people in relation to each other, including their division of labor, integration and intimacy. Culture is the symbolic aspect, such as religion, decoration, and folklore. Organization is the corporate aspect, or the capacity for collective action. Finally, Social Control is the normative aspect of social life, or the definition of deviant behavior and the response to it, such as prohibits, accusations, punishment, and compensation (Black, pp. 1 ~ 2, 1976, bold type-face added).
Us! ing these five variables, Black argues that-"all else being! constant"-the following will occur: more stratification will result in more law (a positive correlation), increased morphology will result in more law-but only to a point, at which time the effect is reversed (a curvilinear correlation), More culture will result in more law (another positive correlation), more organization will result in more law (a positive correlation), and more social control will result in less law (a negative correlation). Finally, from these five independent variables, Black identified a myriad of similar correlations (he calls them "propositions") which go beyond the scope of this brief summary.
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on March 25, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I had to buy this book for a college class. I'm pretty impressed with the book. It's easy to read and understand if you already have taken a few human behavior classes and have a general understanding of the law and socioeconomic status. Once you get the general understanding of the book it gets kind of repetitive, but it's good for people that may not understand the concept.
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on September 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
YES. good price, very cheap
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on August 27, 2014
Format: Paperback
good
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