The legal pluralism of an enclave society: the case of Munkatch Hasidism

Levi Cooper, Maoz Kahana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This study explores unexpected legal pluralism within enclave cultures. Mary Douglas' notion of an enclave describes behavioural patterns of minority groups in environments perceived as hostile. Such groups are inclined to reject possibilities that are outside the enclave, opting for a dichotomous outlook of truth/falsehood or good/bad. This paper argues that with the negation of the “outside,” the enclave idealises the “inside,” diverse and legally delinquent as it may be. If the “inside” is not in line with the enclave's values, recalibration may be necessary, whereby the suspect practices are vindicated or reinterpreted. The result is a pluralism that is intra-cultural, inherent, and legal. This pluralism is limited and motivated by the boundaries and needs of the enclave; namely, its conceptual creation and ongoing maintenance. The model is demonstrated by the Jewish hasidic community of Mukačevo led by Rabbi Hayim Elazar Shapira (1871–1937). While Shapira is a symbol of ultra-traditionalism, his internal legal pluralism highlights the necessity of nuanced descriptions: ardent combatants may also be pluralistic jurists. This study indicates complexity of internal identity discourse in contemporary societies. Moreover, it suggests that legal creativity may be a tool employed by enclaves in their quest to preserve their way of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-91
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law.


  • Hasidism
  • Hayim Elazar Shapira
  • Jewish law
  • Mary Douglas' enclave
  • Munkács/Mukačevo/Munkatch
  • Orthodoxy


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