State, Sovereignty, and the People: A Comparison of the 'Rule of Law' in China and India
Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 68, No. 1, February 2009
Posted: 3 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 2, 2008
This paper uses the concept of rule of law to compare Qing China and British India. Rather than using rule of law instrumentally, the paper embeds it in the histories of state power and sovereignty in China and India. Three themes, all framed by rule of law and rule of man as oppositional, yet paradoxically intertwined, notions, organize the paper's comparisons: the role of a discourse of law in simultaneously legitimizing and constraining the political authority of the state; the role of law and legal procedures in shaping and defining society; the role of law in defining an economic and social order based on contract, property, and rights. A fourth section considers the implications of these findings for the historical trajectories of China and India in the 20th century. Taking law as an instrument of power and an imagined realm that nonetheless also transcended power and operated outside its ambit, the paper seeks to broaden the history of rule of law beyond Euro-America.
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