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Bands to Chiefdoms the Development of Modern Law

Legal and Psychological Developments

By SchmalzPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Bands to Chiefdoms the Development of Modern Law
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The legal systems for which people have created have depended on developments in civilization and human psychology. To trace back to the origins of our species is to understand that a formal legal code didn’t exist inherently in smaller hunter gatherer peoples. People have created laws that have developed alongside the growth of population and civilization. The development of laws has been founded upon different sources, behaviors, cultural norms, traditions, social interactions, and reasoning.

When people began to form conditions for law to develop was when they began to gather in bands which consisted of small kin groups that varied anywhere from two to around three hundred in size. This original conglomeration of people didn’t have a need for developing a formal legal code because the band consisted of a group of kin. In such societies everyone knew one another and were capable of resolving issues through personal resolutions. This resembles what it’s like for modern day people when solving an issue within your family. If a brother was to steal from a sibling it's hardly the case that the parents would sentence him to death. Instead the reconciliation depended upon fair settlement between the two parties. Once fair settlement had been agreed upon these personal resolutions were perceived by the community as fair and longer lasting than either party in the dispute. These personal resolutions differed in what fair settlement meant based upon the cultural norms and taboos within each band and were reinforced by them. This would resolve conflicts within the band and provide psychological relief in the perceived fair settlement.

As civilization grew, groups of people expanded into the technical term of tribes meaning a conglomeration of people from anywhere between three hundred and a few thousand. Within tribes not every person was kin anymore but still had common norms, traditions, taboos, and language. The stories that existed within tribes were to focus on common norms and taboos. As the expansion of people continued on it required certain people to be in charge and hierarchies became more intertwined within the tribe. Typically this person(s) were in charge of resolving conflicts that arose within the tribe. Being raised in a tribe was similar to now growing up in a small town where not everyone is kin but everybody knows everybody else. If in the rare case someone did not know the individual they knew someone who was kin to the individual, therefore allowing them to make decisions about you. Tribal leaders also had responsibility in resolving conflicts in a manner that were considered to be personal, fair, and long lasting. The traditional view that stemmed from implementing reconciliation influenced by the stories that existed within the tribe. Every decision was pulled from the traditions that existed before to inform their decision about the current conflict at hand. One might think of when modern courts use precedent from cases prior to resolve a similar case currently being decided upon.

As the growing population expands beyond three thousand to tens of thousands the civilization becomes regarded as a chiefdom and is the beginning of professional law being practiced. Having such a large sum of people created issues around resolving conflict in the traditional sense because not everyone would have the same traditions, taboos, and could even speak different languages. It was necessary for people to attempt objective reasoning to create laws that would bind the society together. Without an objective law there would always be turmoil within the community because of the need for revenge upon neighbors. In turn creating a never ending conflict that would destroy the chiefdom from within. During this state professionals were needed to be in charge of punishment for the assailant. This role transformed from being one of survival in the periods of bands and tribes, now became a full time job in the chiefdom. This profession included teams of leaders, bureaucrats, and professional soldiers to enforce the law. Law now needed to be extracted out from human behavior and reasoning in order to cut across cultural lines and bind all to it. Thus making law the master of man and binding all citizens to it. Thus making cultural traditions become less apparent unless they fit into the now considered to be objective law of man. These positions that served as full time jobs to ensure public security and well being was the birthplace of modern law and the beginnings of the separation of the victim’s role as an active participant in the reconciliation process. These professionals whose jobs were to seek out justice took new form in that they hardly ever knew the accused or the victim. For example in modern times the police officer rarely knows the person that is pulled over, as the lawyer rarely ever sees the person they represent in court ever again, and the judge rarely convicts the same person. Law became the new master to protect people from people backed by the states monopoly on force.

Having full time professionals that are committed to being the justice or enforcement of the government created a sense of righteousness in the thought that law has proper footing in the separation of those serving justice not knowing those who they are serving. By doing so they remove victims from being able to take revenge and replace them with professionals who are seeking out justice when making decisions about who is disobeying the law and the rightful punishment to the accused.

But what does psychology have to say about those in such positions? How can victims achieve psychological reconciliation within modernity? And how are those who serve justice blinded by tunnel vision?

If you’d like to take a closer look at deception techniques used by police officers during interrogations read my article Psychological War & The Art of Deception by following the link below.


About the Creator


Welcome to my page! I am a writer whose interests are vast and believes in the art of the word. In my writing you will find Non-Fiction, Fiction, and poetry in pursuit of the value of language.

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  • Robert White4 months ago

    The evolution of law, from ancient bands and chiefdoms to the modern legal landscape, is a testament to humanity's continuous quest for justice and order. The Law Office of Paul Mankin stands as a contemporary embodiment of this journey, exemplifying a commitment to the highest standards of care for clients.

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