David Engel’s “The Oven Bird’s Song clarifies the relationship between transformations in societal relationships and litigiousness through intensive participant observation and deep discussions. With local communities as subjects, the study uses analytical methodology to address the transformation of societal relationships, legal consciousness of people, and conflict behavior in a way that could be applied to any society or culture. In that sense, it is rightly regarded as a monumental work in research on law and society. In particular, the implications of the article go beyond explanations of the relationship between social transformation and litigiousness; rather, the work focuses on the problem of consciousness of social relationships and use of litigation amid social transformations. Needless to say, when attempting to analyze the relationship between social transformation and litigiousness in a society, one must consider multi-dimensional elements such as economic factors inherent in a society and systems of law and litigation. It may be possible to conduct a macro-analysis that focuses on these elements. However, an even deeper implication of Engel’s research is its understanding of the perceptions of these factors. Of course, the analysis used by Engel in Sander County will have different results if used in, say, Manhattan or in a community with a different culture, such as in Asia. However, by focusing on the dimensions of the perceptions and narratives, Engel provides detailed differences and universal elements, which cannot be seen through an analysis of the relationship of demographic macro-factors and the results of such an analysis. This point has the following dual meaning. First, basic concepts such as “community, “neighbor, “litigation, and “compensation have slightly different meanings in different communities. Superficial analyses that ignore these differences (e.g. in correlations in population mobility rates or the use of litigation) are prone to major errors by making assumptions such as simple comparability. At times, these analyses may even attempt to make comparisons despite existing differences. Second, even within communities, people’s perceptions and narratives essentially capture these slight differences in meaning. Research on legal and litigation behavior in differing cultures cannot make comparisons without introducing the dimensions of perception and narrative, as Engel has shown.
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