Law's relation to culture is both powerful and subordinate. That complex role is apparent when the relationship of law and culture is viewed from the perspective of families. Law supports a defined concept of family, and does so very powerfully. Law acts as a barrier to other definitions and structures, and fails to recognize and honor all family relationships. Ultimately, however, the cultural construction of family is so strong that it can subvert and even change the law. Thus, culture can change law, but law cannot change culture.
This interaction of law and culture with respect to family is evident in the description and analysis of miscegenation and polygamy of Professors Bentley and Gordon. A more recent example of the interplay of law, culture and family is the treatment of families after 9/11. All of these cases reveal both the transformative potential of culture as well as the silent maintenance of hierarchies that culture continues to embrace.
Nancy E. Dowd,
Law, Culture, and Family: The Transformative Power of Culture and the Limits of Law,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol78/iss2/13