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Accounting for Legal Pluralism: The Impact of Pre-colonial Institutions on Crime

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  • Larcom Shaun

    () (Department of Land Economy and St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, 19 Silver St, Cambridge CB3 9EP, UK)

Abstract

This article investigates the impact of non-state legal institutions on crime by exploiting differences in pre-colonial legal institutions. In relation to criminal law, it is suggested that colonisation can be best characterised as the imposition of almost identical criminal law on a diverse set of pre-existing legal institutions; in this sense, this analysis inverts the legal origins and institutions literature. Given that remnants of pre-colonial institutions persist, it is suggested that the type of pre-colonial legal institution should have a direct effect on state crime control and the crime rate. This is so, as societies that were relatively stateless prior to colonisation are more likely to have high magnitude non-state sanctions that can act as substitutes for state punishments, but the presence of such non-state legal institutions also reduces the productivity of state enforcement, contributing to an overall increase in crime. This is tested using a measure for pre-colonial institutions on a dataset of 86 post-colonial states. Private enforcement of high magnitude punishments, despite the deterrent effect, results in a net increase in crime.

Suggested Citation

  • Larcom Shaun, 2013. "Accounting for Legal Pluralism: The Impact of Pre-colonial Institutions on Crime," The Law and Development Review, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 25-59, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:lawdev:v:6:y:2013:i:1:p:25-59:n:6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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