I want to eliminate law from society without that be perceived as a downgrade to civilization.

What I have so far is along the line of: "In a near/far future, the crew of a space mission stayed in space and became a colony with increasing population. They had the protocols and command chain of the mission, and in that they based the protocols of the colony. People in the colony were raised in the belief that not following the protocols correctly results in disaster. So they have protocols, not laws, as not doing your job properly threatens your own survival that is already the punishment."

Answers do not need to stay with the space colony setting if a more generic solution that also works elsewhere is provided. My solution depends on the colony genesis and I'm dodging the debate "It cannot work because..." with "It's not about if it works or not, things just happened that way". But, when trying to scale that to a population of millions (a small country) how can I justify that they never reached the horizon where people start saying "Ok, we need laws"? If possible I want the colony to continue in that line, if not believable then at least until it reaches the population of a small country and starts resembling a country (schools, health care, etc).

If the question on the title can be answered bypassing my setting, that's OK. I will consider better an answer that considers my setting only if it compares in quality to one that doesn't. Feel free to ignore the setting.

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    $\begingroup$ So your distinction between protocols and laws in this context is that the former don't have any punishment for non-compliance? $\endgroup$ – KillingTime Sep 19 '15 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ How are these 'protocols' and 'command chain' not laws? This question doesn't make sense. In a chain of command there is absolutely punishments for disobeying orders. $\endgroup$ – Fhnuzoag Sep 19 '15 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I imagined them to rely more on people awareness of the consequences of not following the protocols than in a system designed along the line of "crime and punishment". It seems that this is still having laws just with a different enforcing system, maybe allowed by the setting. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 19 '15 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ So, essentially, laws are enforced by group ostracism and group ridicule, rather than by punishments handed down by an authority? ( Inevitably, in the court of public opinion, with no due process to prove the individual thus being punished is guilty?) $\endgroup$ – LindaJeanne Sep 20 '15 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors similar to my accepted answer with the difference in that that answer proposes to obsolete law at then end of a social evolution process and yours seems to go for a well designed system that reduces to the minimum the need/desire of breaking the law. For a sci-fi setting, even being a bit hard to present believably, I think mine can be presented in such a way that works. Yours was useful to me too so I upvoted, thank you. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Dec 14 '16 at 15:34

In the evolution of any (human) society, there are two phases when there is no law, yet order prevails.

1- When the society is in the least state of development and the individuals do not agree on adhering to any central authority. There is no law this time, but order is present as being disorderly would get you killed by the others. Notice how a pride of lions behaves. They don't have written laws or a trial system, but they are still coordinated and adhere to a system. That is, because everybody knows their place and not following the system would end up in your death.

2- The second phase when law is not required, is when the social evolution is complete and the desire to get more than one's rightful share, is no more. Under these circumstances, no central authority is required, because there is no conflict of interests and no usurpness of other people's belongings.

When you say that your colonists have protocols, that actually means they have a set of laws. Laws don't have to be in a written or formal form. Social laws were active thousands of years before any country had any formal constitution. Substituting the word "protocols" for "laws" does not change the meanings of what is being implied.

The scenario you have presented in your question tends to resemble phase-1 of the social development. There is a strong desire to usurp the rights, but the usurper fears the consequences of the action and that fears keeps him from committing the act.

  • $\begingroup$ So the laws are always there. If law is a mere formalization then the best I can do is think in different laws? $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 19 '15 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ (Continued from above comment). There is a good example that comes to mind about this. When you put carbon under very high pressure and temperature for a very long time, it turns to diamond. You cannot hold a chunk of coal and say "I want it in diamond form from the very start." That won't work. You need to put the coal (and disorderly people) through the long process of heat and pressure (tough times, strict laws) to transform it into diamond (and the society turns into perfect society after all the evolutionary process). $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 19 '15 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think phase 2 can exist. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Sep 19 '15 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ I imagine that reaching phase 2 implies a small and controllable population. High pressure conditions are present in this setting, the colony has future tech, but It still requires a skilled crew to maintain it working, it's not the same as life on Earth. Say that the social evolution of the citizens of the colony reached the next level and because of that they do not need a central authority may work. Something like they developed a super hight empathy. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 19 '15 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ Phase 2 doesn't make much sense: there will always be something someone wants and can't have it, hence you need laws. The rest of the answer is good, but that paragraph is just no. $\endgroup$ – o0'. Sep 21 '15 at 14:53

Taking the subject line of your question, some dictatorships retain order without law. People who rock the boat or disobey the junta and their henchmen get punished, with utter disregard for anything like due process.

In the text of your question, you talked about a perceived downgrade to civilization. I hope we all agree that the situation I described above would be awful, but perhaps the citizens of the dictatorship have been brainwashed so that they don't see a problem.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah. Ultimately laws are there to protect people. The point of laws is that if you follow them then society has to protect you. A society without laws just follows the whims of the powerful. $\endgroup$ – Fhnuzoag Sep 19 '15 at 21:18

As others have pointed out you are mostly dealing with semantics between laws and protocols. We all live in societies with certain expectations of behavior, even with some societies having mutually exclusive expectations from each other.

Laws are just a more formalized version of many of these expectations that are enforceable by a governing body.

As far as never having punishment for someone not doing their job, there always has to be. In any group of people there is always one or two who don't bother to do their job or just the bare minimum needed to get by. If they don't see any negative issue they will assume that it isn't needed or at least not to the level 'required'.

At the very least when these people are discovered they will get some form of ostracization for endangering others, and their duties would likely be reassigned to a much less pleasant and less critical work position.

Living by the 'protocols' for long enough would also make it more of a religion, where people don't always know 'why' they do something because 'we've always done it this way'.

  • $\begingroup$ About last paragraph, It is the same for laws, isn't it? Usually, our laws texts has public visibility, but that does not mean we know why they were written and when somebody want to tag one as obsolete there is always debate. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 21 '15 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ @HatoruHansou: The debate is a good thing! It means thinking, as a society, about why the law exists, the various good/bad effects of the law, and how they compare. That's something you WANT a society to actively be thinking about and debating, rather than blindly going along with "the way it's always been." $\endgroup$ – LindaJeanne Sep 21 '15 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ @LindaJeanne I also think debate is good and unavoidable, I just pointing that out. Not that I imagined the colonist never debating. I think, after reading all the answer I have come to a way of differentiate my protocols from the laws we have in the real world. Laws are about what you must not do, isn't it? You are free to explore possibilities as long as yo do not break them. Protocols are (mostly) about what you must do and how. I didn't mean to imply that the colonist cannot modify them to adapt to new situations, their system would be broken without that option. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 21 '15 at 12:20

The historical situation which comes closest would be the "Friesian Freedom" of the 14th and 15th centuries.

Order then mainly came through cultural cohesion. There was no real government or taxes as such: maintaining infrastructure was an obligation of landowners directly, with those landowners who did not meet their obligations being ostracised.

  • $\begingroup$ Good that there is a historical situation to study. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Sep 21 '15 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ It is interesting the Xeer like "Friesian Freedom" is a system without central government but order and cohesion held by strong customs and interpersonal relationships. $\endgroup$ – Michal Gajda Jul 20 '18 at 16:57

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