Bedouin Law

I got this book to answer the question, ‘How can a society implement law without a government?’ The Bedouin have no formal government, but they have a large body of law. It is stored in the minds of a self-selected group of judges who commit to memory the body of law that has evolved over millennia. 

What’s striking about this law is its system of enforcement. With no jails, there can be no system of punishment; instead, most criminal violations are resolved by ‘sanctioned revenge’. For example, if you kill me, my brother can legally kill you. Of course, your brother could then kill my brother, and the feud could go on forever. But Bedouin law has a variety of schemes meant to dampen feuds before they get out of hand.

It also boasts an elaborate system for keeping everybody on the up and up; a guarantor can be appointed to insure that a judgement is executed fully. That guarantor then assumes liability for the execution of the judgement. Legal liabilities also extend through extended families. Thus, I could end up being dunned for 40 camels because my brother killed somebody else but cannot now be found. 

I read only about a quarter of this book; once I had gotten the answer to my question, I found the remaining chapters presenting details and case histories to be inutile. It was interesting, however, that the judges have committed a vast amount of case law to memory, being able to cite cases more than a century old.