Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, February 23, 2006

New book: O'Brien & Li, "Rightful Resistance in Rural China"

Long-time collaborators Kevin O'Brien and Lianjiang Li have expanded O'Brien's original article on "rightful resistance" into a book, Rightful Resistance in Rural China, just published by Cambridge University Press. The body of work represented by this book is particularly interesting to students of Chinese law because it shows how legal texts (among other normative sources) can be socially meaningful even when they are not in any practical sense enforceable by courts or other state institutions.

Book blurb from Cambridge's web site follows:

How can the poor and weak ‘work’ a political system to their advantage? Drawing mainly on interviews and surveys in rural China, Kevin O'Brien and Lianjiang Li show that popular action often hinges on locating and exploiting divisions within the state. Otherwise powerless people use the rhetoric and commitments of the central government to try to fight misconduct by local officials, open up clogged channels of participation, and push back the frontiers of the permissible. This ‘rightful resistance’ has far-reaching implications for our understanding of contentious politics. As O'Brien and Li explore the origins, dynamics, and consequences of rightful resistance, they highlight similarities between collective action in places as varied as China, the former East Germany, and the United States, while suggesting how Chinese experiences speak to issues such as opportunities to protest, claims radicalization, tactical innovation, and the outcomes of contention.

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