September 15, 2008
Lawyers and political liberalism--China as exception or rule?
There's been some recent writing examining the role of lawyers in liberal transformations, most notably the volume by Halliday, Karpik and Feeley entitled Fighting for Freedom. In a recent paper that I recommend, available here, Randy Peerenboom takes issue with overly optimistic assessements about the ability of lawyers to serve as a beachhead for liberalism in China. Randy argues that the best analogue is the legal profession under authoritarian dictatorship elsewhere in East Asia, which was effectively limited as a source of liberalism. I'm generally inclined to agree with his assessment in China. The dynamics may be quite different than they ultimately turned out to be in Taiwan & Korea, where lawyers did play a leading role in democratization movements.
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