Bidirectional legal socialization and the boundaries of law: The case of enclave communities’ compliance with COVID-19 regulations

Netta Barak-Corren, Lotem Perry-Hazan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 has challenged people worldwide to comply with strict lock-downs and meticulous healthcare instructions. Can states harness enclave communities to comply with the law in such crucial times, even when compliance conflicts with communal sources of authority? We investigated this question through the case of Israeli ultra-Orthodox schools compliance with COVID-19 regulations. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with school principals, documents and media sources, and a field survey, we found that the state has the capacity to quickly internalize new norms and harness the cooperation of previously suspicious communities. At the same time, we found that communal authorities were able to shield widespread communal defiance from legal enforcement. These findings expose the bidirectionality of legal socialization: As the community uses its defiance power to attenuate the law, it socializes public authorities to accede to their bounded authority. As public authorities come to realize that the community cannot be brought to full compliance, they curtail enforcement efforts and socialize the community to operate outside the law. Our findings animate the reciprocity assumption in legal socialization theory and highlight one of the crucial tasks for the next 50 years of research: to examine the bidirectionality of legal socialization and discover its socio-legal effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-662
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are indebted to Gilad Elituv, Gil Nachmani, Shelley Robinson, Oriel Shmidov, and Hen Yeffet for excellent research assistance. They also thank Benny Benjamin for helpful comments, the Israeli Science Foundation (Grant 1487/19) for financial support, and the interviewees for contributing their time and thoughts.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues


  • COVID-19
  • bounded authority
  • enclave communities
  • enforcement
  • law and policy
  • law and religion
  • legal socialization
  • reciprocity
  • ultra-orthodox community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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