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We follow reason, not the law: disavowing the law in rural China

Pia, Andrea E. ORCID: 0000-0002-4061-7369 (2016) We follow reason, not the law: disavowing the law in rural China. Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 39 (2). 276 - 293. ISSN 1081-6976

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Identification Number: 10.1111/plar.12194


Recent debates about the moral climate in China have focused on its citizens’ purported loss of traditional values and interest in the public good. Chinese society, particularly in the countryside, is described in terms of a moral vacuum: the absence of shared values through which citizens’ public behavior might contribute to the nation's greater good. The Chinese state is reforming its judicial system with the aim of making it more accessible to its citizenry, so that law and legal rights create bonds between individuals and the collectivity. This approach envisions legal mediation as a vehicle to bring law to the countryside. This article, however, shows that in rural Yunnan, the law and legal rights are seen as instruments of disenfranchisement. This article demonstrates that Yunnanese rural society is better described as a moral “plenum” than as a “vacuum.” It also shows that Chinese law, via temporary use rights to local resources, is ousting alternative regimes of resource management. These alternative regimes are predicated on local villagers’ participation in and responsibility for the public good.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 American Anthropological Association
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2015 13:49
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2024 06:54

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