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Features 327 Xin Ren. Tradition ofthe Law and Law ofthe Tradition: Law, State, and Social Control in China. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997. xviii, 174 pp. isbn 0-313-29096-2. In an insightful journal article, Professor Janet E. Ainsworth shared a meditation on a briefpassage from the writings ofXunzi: "[T]he wise man is careful to . . . regulate names so that they will apply correcüy to the realities they designate. In this way he . . . discriminates properlybetween things that are the same and those that are different."1 Her article makes a thoughtful proposal concerning the often noted difficulty for the comparative legal scholar in transcending appropriately his or her own Western cultural framework to draw valid conclusions about the legal culture ofany non-Western society.2 Focusing on the importance of avoiding inappropriate and misleading Western legal terminology in the comparative study oflaw, Ainsworth recommends a methodology borrowed from linguists and anthropologists—the ernie or internal approach to cultural studies.3 Recognizing that one must begin with etic or universal categories, her proposal emphasizes that the ultimate point at which one hopes to arrive is the supplanting of these categories with "ernie interpretive constructs that better reflect the world view ofthe studied order."4 The deployment of a "thick description"5 of the cultural context permits movement from the etic (default) category to the appropriate ernie interpretation. Professor Xin Ren's small book exploring the relationship between China's traditional culture and the legal culture of the People's Republic of China is an impressive realization of the potential ofthe recommended ernie approach for comparative law. For those pondering whether the supremacy of the Communist Party over the Constitution and law confirms that Marxist-Leninist-Maoist communism is the bedrock ofChina's modern legal system, Ren's scholarship provides the opportunity to explore a different view ofthe continuity between tradition and the present.5 Ren engages in what is essentially a performance rather than an argument . Cutting through the tendency to attribute China's current model ofsocial control to socialist authoritarianism, with a nod to a rather vague influence from China's philosophical traditions, she provides a conceptual framework for a cultural and historical understanding ofsome ofthe most important premises ofthe state's role in the administration ofjustice in modern China. Her analysis concentrates on the convergence and divergence ofConfucianism, Maoism, and Chinese© 1998 by University Communism in reinforcing the role of the state, law, and social control in China. ofHawai'tPressAlbert Hung-Yee Chen's 1992 publication, An Introduction to theLegalSystem of the People's Republic ofChina, is a useful companion volume offering readers of 328 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall 1998 English a concise but dense glimpse at the modem Chinese legal system, examining historical influences on China's modern legal system and exploring the formal , modern law. To understand the influence of traditional legal culture in present Chinese society, Ren's book takes a two-part approach. The first part of the book presents a historical and ideological overview of the Chinese imperial legal tradition and the rule of punishment formed under that legal tradition. The second part of the book provides the occasion to hear echoes of the legal tradition in modern China through a discussion ofjudicial independence and the Communist Party, equal rights and class division, counterrevolutionary crime, and voluntary confession. Ren's performance begins with chapter 1, "Law and Morality in the Chinese Legal Tradition," taking us back to the seventh century b.c. Ren confidently acquaints the reader with the substantive quality of Chinese traditional law, the great strains of the Confucian and Legalist schools, the centrality of familism in understanding traditional law and morality, and the relationship between moral internalism and the role oflaw. She concludes this section by commenting on the continued relevance of the competitive struggles between the Confucian and Legalist traditions despite the Confucianization oflaw through the Han dynasty. Here is where Ren's "thick description" pays off. While the idea that Confucianism and the Legalist school offered competing visions of law in imperial China is not novel/ the reader is offered an in depth exploration of similarities and divergences through two fundamental issues: (a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 327-332
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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