In every society there are institutions that encourage and emphasize conformity to social and customary rules or norms. These institutions are referred to as sanctions. According to Radcliffe Brown a sanction is a reaction on the part of a society or of a considerable number of its members to a mode of behavior which is thereby approved or disapproved.
Sanctions can be positive or negative. By positive sanctions it is meant such incentives to conformity as awards, titles and recognition by others. However they seem to be usually of less significance than negative sanctions. The negative sanctions include threats of imprisonment, corporal punishment or ostracism from the community for violation of social norms.
Sanctions may be formal or informal depending on whether or not a legal status is involved. Informal sanctions may acquire the forms of surprised glances to murmurs or disapproval by others while formal sanctions may involve subject to litigation.
Organized and diffused sanctions where organized sanctions are those which reward or punish behavior through precisely regulated social procedure. When these sanctions are imposed by an authorized political body they are referred to as legal sanctions. Diffused sanctions are those which are the expressions of approval or disapproval by members of the community. Often diffuse sanctions involve patterns of behavior which are more or less institutionalized.
Religious sanctions also serve to regulate behavior and explain incomprehensible phenomena.Witchcraft; sorcery and other magical practices instill fear and thereby act as effective sanctions that lead to the conformity to proper behavior. One of the important contributions of Anthropologists has been to the field of conflict. The term denotes any antagonistic state between two or more parties arising from incompatible interests. The parties may be individuals, social groups or institutions. Conflicts are quite an inevitable part of social life.
Anthropologists have distinguished six basic processes of conflict management which mostly involve the intervention by a third party. In negotiation both principals seek a mutually acceptable settlement without the intervention of a third party but often with the aid of supporters. In mediation a third party intervenes in a dispute to help the principals achieve an agreement. Three modes of intervention are possible either principal may solicit the mediator's aid; an administrative agency may appoint the mediator or the mediator may intervene on his or her own initiative as a party interested in a conciliation of the conflict. Adjudication demands the decision of a third party that has the official authority to render a judgement.The institutionalization of this process tends to formalize the norms of conduct and of judicial procedure and usually requires means to enforce compliance with the decision. In arbitration both principals consent to the intervention of the third party whose judgment they agree to accept beforehand. Industrial disputes are often settled by this method. Avoidance represents a procedure of indirect confrontation in which one principal takes no action to obtain redress for a wrong or a curtailment of his interests suffered. Through coercion one principal imposes the outcome and he alone determines his concession.
Malinowski defined law as the obligation of one person and the rightful claim of another sanctioned not by mere psychological motive but by a definite social machinery of binding force based upon mutual dependence. According to Hoebel social norms are legal when they are regularly enforced by socially recognized enforcers. The purpose of law is threefold
: To define the norms regulating social interaction in terms of right/duty relationships.
: To establish procedures to manage disputes arising from conflicting interests.
: To create institutions to facilitate the legislation, application and enforcement of norms.
Anthropological studies relating to jurisprudence consider the formal structures of a legal system comprising the legal statutes, legal professionals and legal institutions in contrast to the ways in which the law is actually applied and enforced at the local level.
Anthropologists are particularly interested in the micro level perspective because it affords first hand evidence for comparison of values and ideals within the written or at least formal word of law as well as practical application of those values in the daily lives of specific groups of people.
Some of the classical works in the anthropological study of comparative jurisprudence include Henry Maine's Ancient Law and Adamson Hoebel's The Law of Primitive Man.