Bringing Politics Back In: Access to Justice and Labor Dispute Resolution in China
Justice: The China Experience, Flora Sapio, Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Sarah Biddulph (Eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 7, 2016
A neglected aspect in the global promotion of rule of law is the political nature of the rule of law. While scholars and practitioners in the field have debated the necessity and feasibility of worldwide rule of law (McCubbins, Rodriguez and Weingast, 2010; Weingast, 2008), they tend to focus on whether, or the degree to which, a developing country meets the “doorstep conditions” for the rule of law as defined in the West. The literature in general marginalizes the political use of law when it is applied in the developing world. In a sense, law is purposively regarded as a technical governance tool, and the politics of rule of law is intentionally taken out of the equation in academic and policy considerations.
This chapter uses labor dispute resolution in China as an example to study access to justice in China’s social and economic transition. The principal argument is that the legal approach to access to justice, with a sharp focus on law and courts, is narrow and fails to explain the wider political horizon on which justice is defined and redefined according to the prevailing sense of justice and the political economy that shapes it. In doing so, this chapter brings politics back to the over-legalized concept of access to justice. The chapter first explores the background in which legal justice emerges in China, and then examines the dominant features of access to justice as it is understood and implemented in China.
Keywords: Access to Justice, Legality, Collective Bargaining, Strike, Unions
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