One of the most usual ways in which centralized governments invade the social fields within their boundaries is by means of legislation. But innovative legislation or other at-tempts to direct change often fail to achieve their intended purposes; and even when they succeed wholly or partially, they frequently carry with them unplanned and unexpected con-sequences. This is partly because new laws are thrust upon going social arrangements in which there are complexes of binding obligations already in existence. Legislation is often passed with the intention of altering the going social arrangements in specified ways. The social arrangements are often effectively stronger than the new laws.
From an excellent 1973 article by anthropologist Sally Moore. (Sadly I do not know an ungated version.)
She illustrates her point with two exotic societies: the Chagga tribe of Tanzania and the New York garment industry.
I stumbled across it in a search for work on legal social engineering–projects not unlike one I am studying in Liberia. It is now added to the “Anarchist approach to development” section of my course.
Since the majority of my readership are the international social engineering class (myself included) I recommend consuming with James Ferguson, Bill Easterly and Jim Scott.