In the opening chapter I said that I am interested in how and why the law has created points beyond which two people living together in a domestic relationship become subject to legal consequences which would not arise between them if there were no domestic relationship. In other words, why do some forms of cohabitation become subject to legal regulation whilst others do not? A subsidiary theme of the book has involved attention to the persistent behaviour of men and women to resist or ignore officially endorsed ways of living and the relationship between this behaviour and legal change. Rather than summarise the ground that I have covered, I confine this conclusion to an assessment of the extent that any overarching theory can be extracted from the material. I should begin by noting the difficulties faced by legal scholars who have propensities towards theorising in an historical context. Abel suggests that law-making has been of marginal concern to many legal sociologists because it requires a macro-social historical perspective rather than the micro-social, synchronic approach of most sociologists (Abel, 1980, p. 805). This must be even more true for those who have not volunteered for the label of legal sociologist. What follows is my own attempt to make sense of what I observe.
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