Year published :June 2010

Size :14x21 cm.

Rights :Thailand and Southeast Asia

ISBN: 9786162150012

Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand

by David M. Engel and Jaruwan S. Engel

Diverse societies are now connected by globalization, but how do ordinary people feel about law as they cope day-to-day with a transformed world? Tort, Custom, and Karma examines how rapid societal changes, economic development, and integration into global markets have affected ordinary people’s perceptions of law, with a special focus on the narratives of men and women who have suffered serious injuries in the province of Chiangmai, Thailand.

This work embraces neither the conventional view that increasing global connections spread the spirit of liberal legalism, nor its antithesis that backlash to interconnection leads to ideologies such as religious fundamentalism. Instead, it looks specifically at how a person’s changing ideas of community, legal justice, and religious belief in turn transform the role of law particularly as a viable form of redress for injury. This revealing look at fundamental shifts in the interconnections between globalization, state law, and customary practices uncovers a pattern of increasing remoteness from law that deserves immediate attention.

About the Authors

David M. Engel is SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at the Law School of the University at Buffalo. His most recent book is Fault Lines: Tort Law and Cultural Practice (Stanford, 2009).
Jaruwan S. Engel is an author, Thai language instructor, and translator, and was formerly Lecturer and Coordinator of the Thai Language Program at the University at Buffalo.

What others are saying

“This is a brilliant and artful account of the dwindling of law in contemporary Thai life. It presents a formidable challenge to the widespread expectation that globalization will be accompanied by enlarged reliance on increasingly similar law.” — Marc Galanter, London School of Economics and Political Science

“This beautifully clear book reveals how globalization has torn the webs of locally based legal and religious dispute resolution systems without putting anything in their place. The result, for many accident victims, is a reemphasis on religious ways of making sense of and responding to accidents, rather than a focus on the law and compensation. This empathetic presentation of another worldview is truly exemplary.” — David Nelken, Cardiff University, UK and Macerata University, Italy

“This book raises unexpected and disturbing questions regarding the impact globalization may have on religion, society and the legal cultures with which it interacts. It exposes issues that cry out for further exploration, not only in Thailand and other areas of Southeast Asia, but far beyond as well.” — Frank Reynolds, University of Chicago

Related files


  • a cogent analysis of the legal system in northern Thailand as it relates to tort and personal injury law and local religious beliefs in a globalizing world
  • examines what happens to law in the lives of ordinary people when a society undergoes rapid change, economic development, and integration into global markets
  • illustrates the changes that have occurred in Thai Buddhism and its relationship to spirit worship and their implications for state law


Thailand | law | anthropology | dispute resolution | legal justice | Buddhist beliefs | globalization

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