International Journal of Law in Context

Research Article

Law’s culture and lived culture: a comment on Roger Cotterrell’s ‘The struggle for law: some dilemmas of cultural legality’

Naomi Mezeya1

a1 Georgetown University Law Center


I want to thank Roger Cotterrell for his stimulating lecture, and thank especially Carrie Menkel-Meadow and the International Journal of Law in Context for the opportunity to participate in this important conversation. I admire Professor Cotterrell’s choice of topic; he has taken up a really hard and pressing question for many pluralist societies right now, which is how law and legal theory might make sense of the legal demands of cultural pluralism. Kwame Anthony Appiah has nicely articulated a similar version of this problem: ‘The challenge, then, is to take minds and hearts formed over the long millennia of living in local troops and equip them with ideas and institutions that will allow us to live together as the global tribe we have become’ (Appiah, 2006, p. xiii). Even if you do not share Appiah’s exuberant cosmopolitanism, the issue remains that conflict between human groups based on small differences often unrecognisable to outsiders is probably the norm in human history, and each society (however defined) continues to negotiate that problem of boundaries, membership and codes of conduct, of who can be included and whose practices can and cannot be tolerated.