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Forum Post: The Basis of Legitimacy: Procedural Justice

Posted 12 years ago on Jan. 2, 2012, 3:24 p.m. EST by ragincajun (3) from Pleasant Hill, CA
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At the time that Why People Obey the Law was written, the conception of the relationship between community residents and legal authorities was a reactive one, with obedience to legal rules viewed as the key behavior that legal authorities wanted from those in the community. Since that time it has been recognized that authorities need the more active cooperation of those in the community (Sunshine and Tyler 2003; Tyler 2002, 2003). Recent studies of community efforts to combat crime and urban disorder, for example, demonstrate that the police benefit from the active cooperation of people in neighborhoods (Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls 1997).

Beyond the area of regulation, there has been an increasing recognition that groups, organizations, and communities benefit when their members willingly cooperate with authorities and institutions (see Darley, Messick, and Tyler 2001; Van Vugt, Snyder, Tyler, and Biel 2000). The role of cooperation in efforts to fight crime and disorder is only one example. The large movement on the value of social capital for communities that has developed in recent years argues that it is important for people to have the types of associations with others that build trust and encourage active participation (Putnam 2000). Researchers have also shown the significance of voluntary extra-role behaviors to the effectiveness of work organizations (Tyler and Blader 2000). Hence, the importance of being able to engage people's internal motivations has become more widely recognized, and extends well beyond the issue of compliance with the law.

In focusing on gaining everyday compliance with the law, Why People Obey the Law considered a wide variety of potentially relevant types of compliance, ranging from paying taxes to stopping at red lights. And, of course, this examination occurred during an era in which the willingness to defer to government policies was very much at issue for a variety of reasons, including the aftermath of the war in Vietnam and government scandals such as Watergate (Levi 1997). In more recent years, issues of compliance with the law have continued to be important, but their focus has shifted, with increasing attention paid to the areas of drugs and intellectual property. In the case of intellectual property, the widespread copying and downloading of illegal software, music, and movies has again illustrated the difficulties of gaining deference toward the law through the use of sanctions (Jensen 2003; Tyler 1997b).

Concerns about rule following have also become important in work organizations, in response to recent corporate ethics scandals. These have led to a focus on corporate governance. In the past few years a number of instances of corporate misconduct, such as the accounting scandals at Enron and Tyco, have come to public attention (Ivancevich, Duening, Gilbert, and Konopaske 2003). These have raised the question of how to govern businesses so as to keep their conduct within the law. This concern highlights the enduring importance of the question of how to manage groups, organizations, and societies. In the case of managing business, both business and government are involved. Businesses might potentially manage themselves internally, or they might be externally regulated by government, or a combination of both. In any case, the question is how to effectively bring conduct into line with rules. Since the publication of Why People Obey the Law, the study of procedural justice has gained momentum, and, today, there is a large body of literature linking procedural justice to authority relations in law, politics, management, and even with interpersonal relations (Lind and Tyler 1988; Tyler 2000b; Tyler and Blader 2000; Tyler, Boeckmann, Smith, and Huo 1997; Tyler and Smith 1998). People are widely found to react to the fairness by which authorities and institutions make decisions and exercise authority, and these reactions shape both their willingness to accept decisions and their everyday rule-following behavior. In addition, these effects have been found to occur when substantial issues, such as personal freedom, are involved (Casper, Tyler, and Fisher 1988; Tyler, Casper, and Fisher 1989).



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