Producing Legality: Law and Socialism in Cuba / Edition 1

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Producing Legality provides a window into the official construction of socialist legality in Cuba and the dissemination of this legal consciousness throughout the country. It links abstract theories of lawmaking and the state with the specific dilemmas confronting individual policymakers to detail the inner workings of the Cuban legal order.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary L. Volcansek
Much of the world seemed to change after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but not everything, everywhere was transformed. Cuba stands as one of the last fully Communist experiments, and the presence of Castro's small island nation so teasingly close to the United States continues to provoke strong passions. U.S. policy toward Cuba for more than three decades has fostered both confusion and myths, but has always evoked passionate emotions. J. William Fullbright supported invading the island in 1962, and Jesse Helms advocates that course today. We know little about how the island functions, and whatever scholarly data suggests that does not conform to accepted expectations is quickly dismissed or unquestioningly embraced. Studying political or legal phenomena about Cuba is a daunting task, but Marjorie Zatz has given us a useful case study of the reciprocal relationship between law and society in revolutionary Cuba 1959-1992. She does not pretend total impartiality, and tells the reader that her approach is "consistent with a more general Marxist emphasis on the global political economy in comparative socio-legal research" 33. For twenty pages she sets the social context of her research as a Cuba in which many advances have been made in health care, education, nutrition, and available housing since the revolution. Zatz has studied and written about other legal systems in Latin America, though, and did not write this book to propagandize the virtues of revolutionary Cuba. This volume's contribution is, in fact, largely to comparative socio-legal studies rather than to the specific attributes of Cuba. It is a case study based on extensive data obtained during Zatz's eight trips to Cuba from 1985 through 1991, two of which were for three-month stays. Her theoretical framework and the organizing principle for the book spring from William Chambliss's structural-contradictions theory that she adapts as referring to "changes in the content of specific laws, the mix of legal formalism and informalism, and the relationship between the form and content of law as reflections of ongoing efforts to resolve conflicts stemming from contradictory structural forces in ways that are ideologically acceptable" 33. And, the ideological component, both socialist and nationalist, looms large in the case of producing legality in Cuba. However, Zatz pinpoints the contradictions that it creates. One theme that runs throughout the book is that of the ideological pressure for informal and local avenues for solving disputes and redressing grievances or as repeated to her by official after official: "the closer to the base, the greater the justice" and the desire for protection of rights and guarantees through the courts. This is too often found lacking, particularly in the area of labor disputes where the goal of increased worker efficiency takes priority over allegations of worker mistreatment. Zatz clearly presents her theoretical framework in the context of contradictions, conflicts and dilemmas that ideological orientation fosters and the strategies pursued for resolution. The book includes two substantive divisions. The first considers the strategies for producing legality, in which Zatz examines the processes of producing law, producing jurists and adapting legal innovations from abroad. The second part, where much more analysis can be found, focuses on translating that legality into daily lives. Whereas the first part tends to be primarily descriptive, her discussion of the use of lay judges and administration of labor law addresses the realities of ideology in conflict with economic reality. Popular participation through the use of lay judges began, in part, because of an absence of trained lawyers; it has now been institutionalized to bring an element of democracy into decision-making. It works, according to Zatz, and lay judges take active roles in the decision of cases at all levels, albeit, more commonly at the lower echelons of the judicial structure than at the higher ones. Zatz points out that Cuban legal proceedings are not totally informal, are bound by statute and are becoming more adversarial. Labor councils consejos del trabajo are another ideological innovation of the revolution and were established to provide a workplace forum in which workers and management could resolve disputes. Whereas the consejos were conceived as balancing the power of labor and management, the reality is quite different. Management regularly ignores the decisions of consejos, and the consejos lack jurisdiction over disciplinary sanctions by management. The clearest evidence of a pro-management trend is that worker's are appealing more and more to the formal courts, even though "in general, the courts tend to side with management in disciplinary cases" 194. To counter the tide of worker appeals to the courts, a new conflict resolution mechanism Base Level Organs of Labor Justice was implemented in 1992 to hear cases of worker discipline or violations of workers' rights. In most cases, there is no appeal from its decisions to the formal judicial structure. Zatz compiled the data for this book from documentary data, census documents, ethnographic tracts, Cuban legal publications since 1959, and interviews. The interviews were key to her understanding of how the legal system works, but as she herself acknowledges, "it is primarily a view from above, from the juridical elite" 204. It is, not surprisingly, a generally favorable assessment of the "revolutionary triumph in 1959" 203. I was particularly grateful for her epilogue that treats the 1990 onward "special period in time of peace," the euphemism for economic hardships, and its implications for increased crime and political unrest. She stops short, however, of speculation about how the current economic exigencies will aggravate the already present disjunctures between ideology and economic imperatives that are reflected in the legal system. I would recommend this book as a case study of how a small, new state manages legal norms, old and new, to fashion an ideologically-driven legality. It is a solid study of the resulting contradictions and how key decision-makers attempted to resolve them. But it is also, as Zatz tells us, "not the operative reality of Cuban legality, but rather one of several realities" 4.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415908566
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 6/1/1994
  • Series: After the Law Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Context and Theoretical Framework
Ch. 1 The Social Context: Daily Life in Cuba, 1985-1990 3
Ch. 2 The Form and Context of Legality: Integrating Structure and Ideology 32
Pt. 2 Strategies for Producing Legality
Ch. 3 Reaching a Consensus: The Process of Law Creation 53
Ch. 4 Producing Jurists: Legal Education in Cuba 98
Ch. 5 Legal Adaptations from Abroad 139
Pt. 3 The Daily Production and Reproduction of Legality
Ch. 6 Lay Judges: "Bidirectional Transmitters" of Legality 163
Ch. 7 Dispute Resolution in the Workplace 185
Ch. 8 Conclusions 203
Epilogue 210
Notes 215
Appendix 228
References 255
Index 267
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