Document Type

Response or Comment


“Justice or Legitimacy: A Response to Ocko and Gilmartin,” 68 Journal of Asian Studies (2009).


Inevitably, comparative law is a twofold project. We start by comparing first-order legal rules: What is and is not a crime? What is protected under a property regime? Then, we are interested in how these legal norms figure in the imagination of the social order. Why, we ask, do people obey the law? How do they imagine the authority of law? But what is the relationship between these two kinds of inquiry? Does a private property regime, for example, support a broader understanding of the political order as a system of contractual relationships among autonomous subjects? Can legal reform—for example, a new constitution—create new citizens, or is it the other way around, with a new conception of citizenship leading to new laws?

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