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Language, Audience, and the Transformation of Disputes

NCJ Number
Law and Society Review Volume: 15 Issue: 3-4 Dated: (1980-81) Pages: 775-821
Date Published
47 pages
This article develops an analytic framework for comparing dispute processing within a single institution and across different cultures, by focusing on the transformation of disputes.
It examines case studies from diverse non-Western and Western settings to show how disputes change as they are processed in response to the interests of various participants. Disputants, supporters, third parties, and relevant publics seek to rephrase and thus tranform a dispute by imposing established categories for classifying events and relationships (narrowing), or by developing a framework which challenges established categories (expansion). Disputes may be expanded by adding new issues, by enlarging the arena of discussion, or by increasing the number and types of active participants. Thus, how the dispute is defined (language) and the roles played by various participants are critical features of the dispute. The article focuses on the agent of transformation, with special attention to the degree of audience participation, particularly in dispute expansion. It suggests the importance of expansion as a mechanism through which new rules emerge in the legal process, and through which social change is linked to legal change. Footnotes and a list of cases cited are included. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1981