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Societies have evolved a variety of structures for settling disputes. Select two contrasting examples- one from the textbook, to illustrate their methods and examine the success of arbitration in any one society.

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Societies have evolved a variety of structures for settling disputes. Select two contrasting examples- one from the textbook, to illustrate their methods and examine the success of arbitration in any one society. Settling disputes is a major part of politics and social control, which are vital for the harmonious function of any society. Different societies achieve this in different ways. In western state society formal offices are held and people given authority to judge and implement punishment or resolution. At the other end of the spectrum are the egalitarian societies, where authority is non-existent, no-one has any power to make anybody do anything, and inequality is very actively discouraged. There are a vast array of structures that come between the two extremes for example those that have a mixture of formal offices and informal methods. This essay examines first the structured court system of western state society, and then the less structured but still formal method of dispute settlement used by the Zapotec people of the Ralu'a village (or pueblo) in South America. This comparison shows that even though there are formal institutions in place in both societies, which may initially seem a poor comparison, however the objective with which they are used varies greatly and they are used to very different effect. ...read more.


Deviance is punished regardless of its impact on society, instilling a code of conduct and the power of authority, which can work as a preventative measure. Punishments such as incarceration and fines may instil bitterness and a desire for revenge. The dispute is not really settled; more that blame has been officially placed and the plaintiff compensated. In comparison are the Zapotec Indians of Ralu'a village in South America studied by Laura Nader (Spradley & McCurdey, 2003). The Zapotec have a number of levels for settling disputes. They have a mediation court system, but a number of more informal methods that are encouraged before court is reached. There are a number of implicit procedural laws, but settlements are usually made on a case-by -case basis with no formalised codifying. Their basic legal principle is "to make the balance". Our western legal systems focus primarily on placing blame, finding fault, and a relevant punishment for going against the culture's legal principle. The Zapotec are more concerned with maintaining the balance, finding a peaceful resolution, and the future relationships involved. Their aim is not to punish potential threats to the control of the state government but to maintain a harmonious, cohesive community. ...read more.


Cohesion is not nearly as vital to everyday life here as it is in smaller communities- disputes are resolved in a very individual way, which is impractical for larger populations- we could not consider intricately every detail of why someone may have hit someone else- we have to have definite boundaries. Hitting is thought of as wrong and not desirable for a peaceful community, thus the fact it is against the law simply prohibits violence regardless of the reason. This is a simple black and white law, and has consequences of which everyone is aware. The depersonalised system is consistent with the impersonal nature of our society. To conclude there are clear differences in the way each society tackles dispute settlement. There is the authoritative Western system that seeks prevention through a vast number of procedural and substantive laws with the primary aim of ensuring 'justice' and punishment. Then there is the more informal system of the Zapotec Indians, who regard restoring the balance and future relationships as more important than placing the blame. I cannot see either system working in the other's community due to the vast cultural differences, and differences in population size, however they seem to prove effective for each individual society. ...read more.

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