Seminar in Law & Society of China

L724 is taught by E. Michelson

Despite a burgeoning scholarly literature chronicling the reconstruction, expansion, and proliferation of laws, courts, and lawyers in China since 1979, scholars disagree about the significance and implications of these developments. Does the Chinese legal system offer meaningful redress to people with grievances, or should it be understood as ornamental window dressing ? Does it do more to limit or to strengthen the power of the government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? Does it do more to help people challenge or to prevent people from challenging the government and the CCP? In this interdisciplinary seminar we will not only explore and debate these questions, but will also (re)consider conventional scholarly notions about authoritarianism and popular political participation, single-party rule and judicial governance, democracy and political legitimacy, and legal professionals and their fights for legal and political freedoms. In the process we will scrutinize recent developments in China, including allegations of a turn from law and a crackdown on lawyers. Our inquiry will be heavily empirical and evidence-based. When we attempt to reconcile, adjudicate, or explain scholarly disagreements, we will scrutinize available data on the issue at hand. Our approach will be not only empirical, but also comparative. Throughout the semester we will endeavor to situate China in comparative global perspective.