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Commodity Chains and the Politics of

Geographical analysis centered on commodity chains
connects the generation of cultural (signifying) eects
within consumption to the real and material (social
and natural) conditions involved in production. De-
construction, understood in a geographical and ma-
terialist sense, uncovers these hidden dimensions of
the commodity sign. Moving to a geographical focus
onplace broadens commodity analysis giving it greater
political potential as a critical tool. Using this device,
a series of local worlds are linked by connecting-chains
into global systems. Commodity chains enable a
greater awareness of the geographical implications of
the political economy of consumption. Informed by
commodity chain analysis, consumers learn to decon-
struct, or critically analyze, the disconnected messages
that bombard them by reconnecting images with
material realities. Also the focus on people-in-places,
as key nodal points along a commodity chain,
broadens economic analysis so that social, cultural,
and natural relations can be incorporated. This gives
commodity chain analysis greater political potential as
a comprehensive political tool. Formulated in this way
commodity chains are said to constitute an analytical
basis for a transformative politics (Hartwick 2000).
See also: Development and the State; Development
Theory in Geography; Economic Geography; Glo-
balization: Political Aspects; International Business;
International Law and Treaties; International Trade:
Commercial Policy and Trade Negotiations; Inter-
national Trade: Geographic Aspects; Marxist Geo-
graphy; Multinational Corporations; World Systems
Theory; World Trade Organization
Cook I, Crang P 1996 The world on a plate: Culinary culture,
displacement and geographical knowledges. Journal of
Material Culture 1: 13153
Fine B, Leopold E 1993 The World of Consumption. Routledge,
Gere G 1994 The international economy and economic
development. In: Smelser N J, Swedberg R (eds.) The
Handbook of Economic Sociology. Princeton University Press,
Princeton, NJ, pp. 206233
Gere G, Korzeniewicz M, Korzeniewicz P 1994 Introduction:
Global commodity chains. In: Gere G, Korzeniewicz M
(eds.) Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism. Praeger Press,
Westport, CT, pp. 14
Glennie P D, Thrift N J 1992 Modern consumption: Theorizing
commodities and consumers. Enironment and Planning, D:
Society and Space 11: 6036
Gottidiener M1995 Postmodern Semiotics: Material culture and
the forms of postmodern life. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
Hartwick E 1998 Geographies of consumption: A commodity
chain approach. Enironment and Planning, D 16: 42337
Hartwick E 2000 Towards a geographical politics of con-
sumption. Enironment and Planning, A 32: 117792
Harvey D 1989 The Condition of Postmodernity: An enquiry into
the origins of cultural change. Blackwell, Oxford, UK
Hopkins T K, Wallerstein I 1986 Commodity chains in the
world economy prior to 1800. Reiew 10: 15770
Leslie D, Reimer S 1999 Spatializing commodity chains.
Progress in Human Geography 23: 40120
Peet, R, Watts M 1996 Liberation Ecologies: Enironment,
Deelopment, Social Moements. Routledge, London
Peirce C 19315 Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
Piore M, Sabel C1984 The Second Industrial Diide: Possibilities
for Prosperity. Basic Books, New York
Yeung H W 1994 Critical reviews of geographical perspectives
on business organizations and organizations of production:
Towards a network approach. Progress in Human Geography
18: 46090
E. R. Hartwick
Common Law
The termcommon law rst comes into use in England
during the thirteenth century. It referred to the
common repertoire of norms and understandings
that had begun to be recognized across the whole
realm during the latter half of the previous century as
central government was becoming consolidated. These
common understandings, which were seen to contrast
with surviving customs of a simply localized character,
became institutionalized as law as they were invoked
to underpin the decisions of judges in the royal courts.
So this evolving common law claimed to represent
the immemorial understandings prevailing in the
social world, and was at the same time put to use as an
instrument of rule by the courts as they developed
into a distinctive branch of government. This primary
sense of the term common law has survived and
continues in use, particularly as a means of contrasting
this source from others which the English courts now
draw on concurrentlystatute and equity. How-
ever, the term has now acquired a general secondary
sense in identifying the broader legal domain formed
through the diusion of English law under the process
of colonial expansion. This common law world is
contrasted with that occupied by the codied civil law
systems of continental Europe directly inspired by
Roman law.
1. Historical Deelopment in England
While the common law is seen to originate in the
everyday practices and understandings of the social
world, its growth from the twelfth century took place
in the context of dual, linked processes: the progressive
Common Law
consolidation of central government, and the gradual
emergence of a specialist legal profession. This growth
was realized through the discursive formulation of
law in the pleadings of lawyers and the judgments
given in the Royal courts. It was associated from an
early stage, and remains associated today, with one
primary assumption and a distinctive method. The
assumption was that the common lawsought to realize
and secure the practices and understandings of every-
day life (immemorial custom). The strength of this
assumption can be illustrated through numerous
examples, including: the continuing invocation of the
reasonable man in arriving at the appropriate standard
of care in respect of claims arising from civil wrongs
(tort); the care taken to ascertain normal business
practice in the area concerned when judging com-
mercial disputes; and the deference accorded to the
customs of conveyancers by courts dealing with
property disputes. The method distinctive to the
common lawlay in the procedure under which lawyers
recovered the rules to underpin their arguments, and
judges to justify their decisions, from the records of
earlier judgments. This procedurethe doctrine of
precedentwas made possible by the maintenance
froman early stage of semi-ocial written records (the
Year Books) and subsequently sustained by private
series of reports before ocial law reporting became
institutionalized. Consistency in decision-making was
reinforced by the understanding that courts should,
wherever possible, followtheir own previous decisions
and were obliged to follow those of courts superior to
them in the judicial hierarchy (the doctrine of stare
decisis). This procedure can be contrasted with the
mode of decision associated with the continental civil
law world under which the judge seeks to ground a
decision in an authoritative, ultimately codied, text.
These working practices which fashioned the com-
mon law were facilitated by the close relationship
prevailing from medieval times between the judges
and the specialist groups which ultimately became the
legal profession. Notwithstanding the strong historical
link between adjudication and the consolidation of
government, in England there has never been a career
judiciary. The higher ranks of the judiciary have been
recruited exclusively from the legal profession, with
appointment to the bench representing the ultimate
career stage of the successful lawyer. While some
elaborate ritual, including the conferment of knight-
hood in the case of the higher judiciary, marks the
transition from barrister to judge, and some formal
distance is subsequently maintained between judges
and their former colleagues, judges remain socio-
logically very much part of the professional group
from which they emerge. They continue to belong to
long-established networks of information exchange
and supportoften crossing generationsbegun in
the great private schools, continued at university, and
subsequently prevailing in the collegiate groups to
which barristers belong (the Inns of Court). So the
courts can be just as easily seen as the apex of the legal
profession as a specialized branch of government.
The common law, developed in the Kings courts
through resort, to precedent, has traditionally been
contrasted with two other sources of law. The rst of
these has been described by legal historians as arising
directly out of the formal working practices of the
Kings courts. These were characterized from an early
stage by procedures requiring anyone who sought
redress to bring the claim within one of a limited
number of elaborate written formulas (known as
writs). If some mistake were made in the pleadings, the
claimant would be denied his remedy. Ensuing direct
appeals for help to the King, which such apparent
injustices gave rise to, led to the growth of a parallel
remedial jurisdiction presided over by the Lord Chan-
cellor. This jurisdictionknown as equity had a
distinct body of doctrines, rules, and practices, and
was long administered in separate courts.
Both the common lawand equity evolved alongside,
and are contrasted with, statute lawrules promulga-
ted by the sovereign. While progressively larger areas
have become at least partially regulated by statute
notably in the elds of crime, commercial law, and
propertya comprehensive legislative scheme of the
kind introduced through the great continental codes
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has never
been attempted in England. This more limited role and
reach of legislation provides a further contrast with
the civil law regimes of continental Europe.
The re-discovery of Roman law in Italy during the
eleventh century is generally presented by historians as
having a limited eect on the growth of the common
law in England, but England was in no sense isolated
from this learning. Some of the clerics who accom-
panied William I to England were distinguished as
scholars of Roman law, so Justinians great Digest was
well known there from an early stage. Holdsworth
(1909) also makes it clear that Bracton, a senior judge
writing in the mid-thirteenth century, used Roman law
to ll the gaps left by his extensive repertoire of case
histories. While Roman law provided part of the
intellectual climate within which a unied legal order
evolved in England during the mediaeval period, its
use as a direct source was limited. Even during the
English Renaissance, the legal historian Maitland
(1907) notes that the common law was still charac-
terized by an amazingly continuous persistence of
medieval doctrine. He attributed this durability to the
presence of the collegiate groupsthe Inns of
Courtwithin which English lawyers associated. He
saw the medieval Inns as schools of law which
provided arenas of communication within which
young lawyers were taught and their seniors formula-
ted a coherent repertoire of legal doctrine. He wrote.
What is distinctive of mediaeval England is not
parliament, for we may everywhere see in Europe
assemblies of estates but the Inns of Court and the
Year Books that were read therein, and we shall hardly
Common Law
nd their like elsewhere. By the time of the great
continental codications of the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries, which were closely informed by
Roman law, the evolving understandings and practices
of English judges and lawyers were already part of a
largely autonomous, dierentiated legal order. By
then the common law tradition was too well set to be
2. Geographical Diusion of the Common Law
While originating in England, the common law has
undergone wide diusion as English settlers carried it
with them abroad and government at Westminster
imposed it upon annexed or protected territories in the
course of colonial expansion. Across India, North
America, Australasia, andconsiderable areas of Africa
and Asia, the common lawremains today a signicant
component, linking together a range of independent
legal orders. Following the now ancient precedent of
the USA, most former colonies have retained sign-
icant elements of the common law, justifying the
shared label of the common law world. But the sheer
diversity of contemporary arrangements within this
loose association inevitably makes any generalization
English settlers establishing colonies overseas took
with themthe general lawof England as it stood at the
moment of rst settlement. By this means, the common
law was established as the foundational law of the
USA and of those regions of what became the British
Commonwealth which were subject to settlement. In
these cases, very little recognition was initially given to
the existing laws and customs of indigenous peoples.
In those further territories which were conquered,
annexed, or declared protectorates as the British
colonial empire subsequently expanded, the statutes of
general application, common law, and doctrines of
equity in force in England at the time were typically
imposed by Order in Council from Westminster. In
these latter cases, notably in India and Africa, early
recognition was given to diverse local legal orders
encapsulated in the course of colonial expansion. In
the case of Africa, this recognition extended to
indigenous dispute institutions. Elsewhere, notably in
Canada and Australasia, recognition of the prior
arrangements of indigenous peoples was postponed
well into the twentieth century.
Once English law, including its major common law
component, had been received in a colony, it remained
in force until repealed or modied by the local colonial
legislature or courtsor by the overarching authority
represented by Parliament at Westminster and the
Privy Council (the ultimate appellate tribunal of the
Empire). These initial linkages between the metropolis
and the colonial world have had variable duration. In
the case of the American colonies they were severed
early on by the Declaration of Independence. During
the twentieth century they progressively disappeared
in the case of self-governing Commonwealth coun-
tries; but some former colonial territories have chosen
to retain a nal appeal to the Privy Council, and a very
few colonies still remain.
Beyond the impetus given by the immediate necess-
ity of explicit constitutional provision, the fresh starts
generated by the colonial enterprise resulted in vig-
orous, eclectic localized growth for the common law.
In these new local contexts, the energy to attempt
rationalization, even towards codication, was per-
haps greater than in the metropolis. Major initiatives
included the codication of wide areas of private law
and the criminal law undertaken in India; the Indian
Penal Code was subsequently reused in modied form
in several other colonial territories. In the USA,
with the particular problem of its numerous private
law jurisdictions, a general attempt at rationalization
has been the American Law Institutes Restatement of
the Law. This initiative, now in its third generation of
restatements, has brought together judges, lawyers
and professors in the preparation of an agreed state-
ment of common law across the state jurisdictions. In
the same context, the great American law schools
have, on the whole, self-consciously attempted to
present an overall view of the common law in their
teaching and research. Elsewhere across the post-
colonial world the superior courts in dierent juris-
dictions have become increasingly attentive to each
others formulations, indicating explicitly in their
judgments that they are working together on a shared
overarching fabric which is in the widest sense a
common law.
3. Theorization of the Common Law
Attempts to theorize the common law, in the sense of
drawing together rules and procedure for the purposes
of exposition and commentary, were made froma very
early stage. Holdsworth (1909) even, proposed that
Glanvils compilation, prepared sometime towards the
end of the twelfth century, marks the true beginning
of the common law. Judge Bractons great treatise,
compiled on the basis of 2000 cases which he had
collected from the plea rolls, followed in the mid-
thirteenth century. Both Glanvil and Bracton were
deeply involved in what was becoming specialized,
legal administration and for the remainder of the
medieval period the common law continued to reside
in practice, receiving discursive formulation only in
the judgments of the courts and in authoritative
commentaries. All the great legal texts of the period
were prepared by practitioners whose learning was
acquired through their work and in the context of their
specialist associations, the Inns of Court.
Just as native legal theory in the medieval period
concentrated on parochial commentary, that of the
Common Law
early modern period continued to focus largely on the
immediate practicalities at hand. During the con-
stitutional crisis early in the seventeenth century, Chief
Justice Coke eloquently prioritized the relative auth-
ority of judges, King (he hath no prerogative but that
which the common law allows him) and Parliament.
But Cokes arguments were not distanced speculation;
rather those of a practical man, the holder of high
oce seeking to justify his position in the urgent
context of struggles for power.
Prior to the mid-eighteenth century the common
law had never been the subject of exposition and
research in the English universities. English university
teaching of the common law can be said to begin with
the lectures which William Blackstone, the rst
Vinerian Professor, delivered at Oxford in 1758, and
which were subsequently published in his famous
Commentaries (176569). The Commentaries took
more the form of popular exposition than scholarly
treatise; but the account he gave provided a framework
that would remain readily recognizable even 200 years
later. In this work the common lawtakes pride of place
as the law by which proceedings and determinations
in the kings ordinary courts of justice are guided and
directed. The validity of common law doctrines,
depending on immemorial usage for their support, is
determined by the judges. In reaching judgment, it is
an established rule to abide by former precedents
where the same points come again in litigation.
It was only in the early nineteenth century that a
body of specically legal theory, focused on the
common law tradition yet distanced from practice,
began to develop in England. This body of theory links
law rmly to government and maintains a consistent
focus on adjudication. The link between government
and lawis established at the outset in the work of John
Austin, the rst Professor of Jurisprudence at Uni-
versity College London. In The Proince of Juris-
prudence Determined (1832), Austin presents law as
the command of a sovereign directed towards mem-
bers of a society in a habit of obedience, with failure
to comply being met with sanctions. That central
association safely in place, English jurisprudence
turned to focusvirtually exclusively over the next
175 yearson providing theoretical foundations for
The rst modern attempt toprovide a general theory
of adjudication was made by Henry Maine in Ancient
Law(1861). In this work, taking a broad, comparative,
historical sweep, he insisted on locating the core of law
in adjudication and in the emergence of rules under-
pinning judicial decision making. He began by map-
ping out a broad transition from small, kin-based
groups to larger, territorial units. The very origin of
social life was identied in the steering role exercised
within a group of kin by the senior male agnate. These
old patriarchs made decisions on an ad hoc basis; no
consistent rules underpinned the decisions they took,
yet government was supposed to be by adjudication by
the senior male, before whom all disputes were
brought. In the formof society that followed, numbers
of these small groups of agnates became clustered
together under chiefs, but the (sometimes ctional)
assumption of shared kinship remained the basic
organizing principle. Then came the territorial stage,
in which members identied themselves through their
common occupation of a dened tract of land, rather
than through kinship. Around the end of the second
stage and the beginning of the third, law developed as
rulers began to pronounce the same judgments in
similar situations, providing their decision-making
with an underlying set of rules. Later in the de-
velopment of territorially-based societies, the settle-
ment of disputes fell in to the hands of a specialized
elite, who alone had access to the principles to be
followed in their resolution. As Maine wrote: What
the juristical oligarchy now claims is to monopolize
the knowledge of the laws, to have the exclusive
possession of the principles by which quarrels are
decided. There followed the era of codes, and so on;
but we can leave the developmental process at this
Several important features are clear from this
summary. First, there is the focus ondispute resolution
and the foregrounding of a particular mode of
intervention. For Maine there were no structural
changes in the dispute settlement process over the
fundamental stages of societal development. Fromthe
senior male agnate onwards, disputes were resolved by
decision, handed down by a third party; there was no
suggestion of negotiatory modes of settlement giving
way to processes of third-party adjudication. Second,
the presence of a normative basis for decision-making
was the key attribute of law for Maine, and the
emergence of this feature heralded the transition from
the prelegal to the legal world. Third, there was the
later development of specialization as legal rules
became separated o from other rules operating in
society. So, for Maine, social life is the product of
government, and the key variables lie in the identity
of the third parties responsible for adjudication and in
the evolving criteria underpinning decisions.
After Maine, the perfection of theories of law as
adjudication occupied the jurisprudence of the com-
mon law world through the rest of the nineteenth
century and much of the twentieth. Much of this
scholarship was generated in North America where
thoroughgoing re-examination was made of the doc-
trines of precedent and stare decisis. The greater part
of this work remained within the traditional com-
mentary mode of legal scholarship, exemplied by
Goodharts now classical attempts to rene the doc-
trine of precedent (1931). More ambitiously, scholars
like Frank and Llewellyn of the legal realist school
drew on sociological perspectives in questioning
vigorously whether these doctrines actually operated
in the manner claimed in native legal theory. They
indicated the relative freedom of judges to distinguish
Common Law
previous decisions they did not want to follow,
suggesting that rules were drawn from the repertoire
to justify desired outcomes, as opposed to determining
what those outcomes would be. This iconoclastic
strand survived on to the end of the twentieth century
in the work of the critical legal studies movement.
One notable attempt to escape from the grip of
adjudication, and to think about lawunconstrained by
the institutional shapes of the modern state, was made
by Hart (1961). Rejecting Austins (1832) command
theory as simplistic and in some respects inaccurate,
Harts elucidation of law lays central emphasis on
rules. One essential category of these is made up of
primary rules imposing obligations. The distinguish-
ing mark of such a rule is the seriousness of the
pressure to conrm to it Rules are conceived and
spoken of as imposing obligations when the general
demand for conformity is insistent and the social
pressure brought to bear upon those who deviate or
threaten to deviate is great.
While Hart concedes that a society might exist with
primary rules only, they alone do not constitute a legal
system. For the step from the pre-legal into the legal
world to be made, these primary rules must be
supplemented with secondary rules of three kinds:
rules of recognitionmaking it possible to identify
what the primary rules are; rules of changeproviding
for the alternation of primary rules when the need
arises; and rules of adjudicationempowering certain
people to determine whether, on a given occasion, the
primary rules have been broken. Most systems will
also contain other secondary rules authorizing the
application of penalties where primary rules are
violated; but this further renement is not seen as
essential to a legal system.
Through the device of these secondary rules, Hart
(1961) appears to disassociate his model from any
parochial institutional content and invest it with
considerable value for cross-cultural purposes. How-
ever, the escape seems to be illusory, leaving Harts
account of law rmly grounded in the institutions of
the state and state-sponsored adjudication. He himself
recognizes that the three categories of secondary rules
imply, and require, the presence of legislative and
adjudicatory agencies. While Hart struggled to mar-
ginalize adjudication by identifying law as an aair of
rules, subsequent exegeses of his work hastened to
represent his core idea as a theory of adjudication. It is
signicant, too, that his most inuential successor,
Ronald Dworkin, has consistently refocused the task
of jurisprudence on understanding and justifying
judicial decision-making.
See also: Conventions and Norms: Philosophical
Aspects; Folk, Indigenous, and Customary Law;
Law: Change and Evolution; Law: History of its
Relation to the Social Sciences; Legal Systems, Classi-
cation of; Norms; Tradition, Anthropology of
Austin J 1832 The Proince of Jurisprudence Determined. J.
Murray, London
Blackstone W176569 Commentaries. Clarendon Press, Oxford,
Dworkin R 1977 Taking Rights Seriously. Duckworth, London
Frank J 1930 Law and the Modern Mind. Coward, New York
Hart H L A1961 The Concept of Law. Clarendon Press, Oxford,
Holdsworth W 1909 A History of English Law. Methuen,
Holmes O W1881 The Common Law. Harvard, Cambridge, MA
Goodhart A L 1931 Essays in Jurisprudence and the Common
Law. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
Llewellyn K N 1962 Jurisprudence: Realism in Theory and
Practice. Chicago University Press, Chicago, IL
Maine H 1861 Ancient Law. J. Murray, London
Maitland F W 1907 Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal
History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
S. Roberts
Common Sense, Anthropology of
Common sense, taken for granted, obvious, self-
evident, the only logical alternative: such labels place
any challenge to a cultural orthodoxy at risk of
annihilation by mockery. They are the terms of
cultural power. Moreover, because they appeal to a
universalizing rhetoric that brooks no possibility of
exception within the known bounds of experience,
they eectively disguise the agency that underlies that
power. For this reason, they have even led critical
analysts attempting to deconstruct the cultural
specicities of common sense to treat the latter as
established structures rather than as a work per-
manently, and unpredictably, in progress.
Thus, for example, in her justly famous explorations
of self-evidence, Mary Douglas (1966, 1975, pp.
276318) presupposes the existence of a set of rulesa
taxonomydespite the ironic circumstance that even
this assumption represents the common sense of the
relatively stable, ordered world of bourgeois experi-
ence. Yet the genius of her approach should not be
overlooked; indeed, it paves the way for this critique.
Douglas shows how attributions of purity and pol-
lution are dened in terms of failure to t taxonomic
schemes already in place; and the metaphor of place is
central, for she denes dirt as matter out of place
(1966, p. 48). In this reading, however, the conceptual
cartography is already in place: the lineaments of the
taxonomy are already known and accepted through-
out the culture, often assumed in this approach to be a
clearly bounded entity: Where there is dirt there is a
Common Sense, Anthropology of
International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences ISBN: 0-08-043076-7
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