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Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China
Useful Paradoxes


Part of Law in Context

William P. Alford
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  • Date Published: October 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316506189

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About the Authors
  • This book studies ideological divisions within Chinese legal academia and their relationship to arguments about the rule of law. The book describes argumentative strategies used by Chinese legal scholars to legitimize and subvert China's state-sanctioned ideology. It also examines Chinese efforts to invent new, alternative rule of law conceptions. In addition to this descriptive project, the book advances a more general argument about the rule of law phenomenon, insisting that many arguments about the rule of law are better understood in terms of their intended and actual effects rather than as analytic propositions or descriptive statements. To illustrate this argument, the book demonstrates that various paradoxical, contradictory and otherwise implausible arguments about the rule of law play an important role in Chinese debates about the rule of law. Paradoxical statements about the rule of law, in particular, can be useful for an ideological project.

    • Studies the rule of law through ideological positions and not through rule of law ideal types
    • Offers a path-breaking analysis and contribution to studies on law in China
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China deserves praise for the empathetic but rigorous manner in which it delves deeply and deftly into the thinking of a bevy of major and quite varied thinkers in [Chinese] law … There is no better critical guide in a western language to the leading figures in early-twenty-first century legal thought in China. That noted, [the book] also deserves praise for the artfulness and candor with which it recognizes and teases out the contradictions and paradoxes that inform the larger project of legal development in the People's Republic of China (PRC) - and with it, attempts therein to articulate an alternative to liberal legality. In this sense, [this book] has made a valuable contribution not only to our understanding of the law and institutions in the PRC more broadly, but also to our thinking about what may (or may not) be possible in law anywhere and, as such, it is an important contribution to legal theory in general, deserving of being studied far beyond the world of contemporary Chinese studies.' William P. Alford, Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

    'Chinese jurists often speak of the 'rule of law with Chinese characteristics'. In this book Dr Seppänen skilfully unravels the many meanings of this enigmatic expression. In so doing, he provides a sophisticated analysis of law's paradoxical role in today's China.' Martti Koskenniemi, University of Helsinki

    'Seppanen unpacks for the first time the intense and important debates about the rule of law within the Chinese political/juristic elite. At once sophisticated and accessible, the book is particularly fascinating on the ways in which the Marxist or Leninist or Maoist old guard elites counter the Western influenced liberals. A feat of scholarly objectivity that will interest equally China experts, human rights advocates and comparative lawyers.' Duncan Kennedy, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Emeritus, Harvard Law School

    'In this trailblazing volume, Professor Seppänen breaks through endless taxonomical debates about what rule of law is and whether China has it. Instead of providing yet another comparative analysis measuring China against Western standards, Seppänen investigates how Chinese rule of discourse works on its own terms. This exceptional study takes legal theory with the seriousness that it deserves, and shows why it matters.' Teemu Ruskola, Emory Law School, Atlanta

    'This book describes argumentative strategies used by Chinese legal scholars to legitimize and subvert China's state-sanctioned ideology and examines Chinese efforts to create alternative rule-of-law conceptions.' Law and Social Inquiry

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316506189
    • length: 230 pages
    • dimensions: 246 x 173 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.43kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword William P. Alford
    Preface and acknowledgments
    1. Introduction:
    1.1 A change of perspective
    1.2 A return to ideology
    1.3 Limitations, academic positioning and apologies
    1.4 Structure of the book
    2. Setting the stage:
    2.1. Three generations of Chinese legal scholars
    2.2 Historically significant scholarship
    2.3 Conservative socialist reforms
    2.4 The mainstream state of mind
    2.5 Liberal sensibilities
    2.6 The avant-garde point of view
    2.7 New orthodoxies and heterodoxies
    2.8 Conclusion: resisting and affirming the ideological positions
    3. Ideological cynicism meets theoretical skepticism:
    3.1 Some realism about ideological realism
    3.2 The life and thought of Luo Gan
    3.3 Luo Gan's speeches through the kaleidoscope of social theory
    3.4 A theoretical smorgasbord
    3.5. Conclusion: knowing how not to know
    4. Useful paradoxes: the conservative socialist ideological position:
    4.1 Introduction
    4.2 Between the romanticism of illegality and the romanticism of legality
    4.3 Useful paradoxes
    4.4 Neoconservative reconfigurations
    4.5 Conclusion: paradoxes as entry points for local knowledge
    5. Thick mainstream, thin liberalism and vice versa:
    5.1 Introduction
    5.2 All things considered
    5.3 Wang Liming and mainstream strategies
    5.4 Prescriptions of paternalism and autonomy
    5.5 Li Buyun and the ever-thickening rule of law conception
    5.6 Liberalism for an authoritarian state
    5.7 Conclusion: merging the narratives
    6. Avant-garde renewal and nostalgia:
    6.1 Introduction
    6.2 Critical avant-garde scholarship
    6.3 New Confucian hybrids
    6.4 Communitarian rule of law
    6.5 The paradoxes of ideological renewal
    6.6 Jiang Shigong and the irrationalist turn
    6.7 Conclusion: a cycle of hope and disillusionment
    7. Conclusions
    7.1 'But nothing falls'?
    7.2 Argumentative strategies
    7.3 Leaps of faith
    7.4 Ideological positions at play: explicating the rural land rights debate
    7.5 Orientalist exotica
    Textbook answers to the questions in chapters 1–6

  • Author

    Samuli Seppänen, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
    Samuli Seppänen is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He holds an S. J. D. degree from Harvard Law School and a law degree from Helsinki University, Finland.


    William P. Alford

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