J. Locke, Op. Cit.: Invocations of Law on Snowy Streets
Author(s)Silbey, Susan S.
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Each winter in the northern cities of the United States, a familiar scene illustrates tacit and deeply sedimented, yet common invocations of law. After a heavy snow storm, one can see old chairs, traffic cones, milk crates, light weight tables, dead house plants, or other noticeably bulky objects in recently shoveled out parking spots on an otherwise snow-filled public street. “Before snowfalls, a parking space belongs to the one who occupies it: you leave it, you lose it. In wintertime Chicago, however,” writes Fred McChesney in an economic analysis of this practice, “excavating one’s car [from the snow that fell on it] changes the system of property rights... The initial digger of the spot is given a limited monopoly for its use.” Although calculating an efficient duration for the monopoly preoccupies some analysts, my attention to the practice of claiming parking spots on snowy streets derives from an interest in understanding legal culture, more specifically, how practices of everyday life sustain the rule of law.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Anthropology Program
Journal of Comparative Law
Wildy, Simmonds and Hill Publishing
Silbey, Susan S. 2012. J. Locke, op. cit.: Invocations of law on snowy streets. Journal of Comparative Law 5 (2): 66-91.
Author's final manuscript