Cultural Norms as a Source of Law: The Example of Bottled Water
As a metaphor for the interaction of law and culture, a crystal-clear bottle of water is striking in its simplicity and purity. Bottled water has spawned a rich subculture of beverage drinkers, united by the truths and myths of bottled water that they embrace. More recently, an equally fertile subculture of bottled water protest has begun to coalesce. Notably, the cultural norms evidenced by supporters and detractors go far beyond mere hydration, touching upon such far-flung notions as health, taste, convenience, status, morality, anti-privatization, sustainability, and truth-telling. In contrast, the legal narrative is surprisingly sparse, overlooking an important opportunity to engage in a cultural-legal dialogue on the evolving norms of water use. This Article argues that the states’ law of water allocation is uniquely suited to stimulate this unrealized dialectic and to translate social values into law, having evolved over more than one century from the customs of water users. In particular, the Article identifies four discrete principles of water law that are particularly relevant to the discourse, including reasonable use, beneficial use, preferred uses, and the public interest. (Word count, including footnotes: 17,585).
Christine A. Klein. 2008. "Cultural Norms as a Source of Law: The Example of Bottled Water" ExpressO
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/christine_klein/2