Constitutionalism: East Asian Antecedents

32 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2012

See all articles by Tom Ginsburg

Tom Ginsburg

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: December 17, 2012


To what degree can traditional Asian political and legal institutions be seen as embodying constitutionalist values? This question has risen to the fore in recent decades as part of a new attention to constitutionalism around the world, as well as the decline in orientalist perceptions of Asia as a region of oppressive legal traditions. As constitutionalism has spread beyond its alleged homeland in the West, it behooves us to ask about the relationship between the particular ideas that emerged in enlightenment Europe and North America with the previous political-cultural understandings of non-European societies. This inquiry has implications for thinking about legal transplants, and for our understanding of how constitutions work in the contemporary world. Ultimately, it calls into question the Western narrative of exceptionalism, in which constitutionalism and the rule of law are seen as distinctive Western contributions.

Suggested Citation

Ginsburg, Tom, Constitutionalism: East Asian Antecedents (December 17, 2012). Chicago-Kent Law Review, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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