The Rule of Law

The Rule of Law

The Common Sense of Global Politics

Christopher May

This timely book explores the complexities of the rule of law – a well-used but perhaps less well understood term - to explain why it is so often appealed to in discussions of global politics. Ranging from capacity building and the role of the World Bank to the discourse(s) of lawyers and jurisprudential critiques, it seeks to introduce non-lawyers to the important and complex political economy of the rule of law.

Chapter 7: One rule of law or many? Internal and external challenges to the rule of law

Christopher May

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, law - academic, law and society, legal philosophy, legal theory, politics and public policy, political economy


[L]aws will be self-defeating when they undermine social norms whose maintenance turns out to be necessary to make those very laws effective. (Pildes 1996, p. 2058) [F]oreign national concepts may be inconsistent with the pre-existing legal and social concepts in the law-receiving country. (Pistor 2002, pp. 106, 109) Between 1988 and 1998 the Chinese economy went from half the size of Russia's to twice its size, Russia of course being a country famous for largely following the advice of American economists. (Upham 2009, p. 591) In the previous chapter's discussion, the question of the plurality of perceptions of the rule of law and the impact this would have on a global constitution lay behind much of the discussion even if this was not always explicit. I now take up this issue to examine the challenges presented to the dominant (Westernized) idea of the rule of law by different perceptions of what the norm might entail (or include), or indeed whether there can be a single norm of the rule of law in a global society made up of widely varying societies with very different histories. Challenges to the rule of law might be broadly seen as coming from within the particular rule of law system itself - which I will discuss as civil disobedience - or from the tension between different rule(s) of law, with their own norms of legality, which is often identified as 'legal pluralism'.

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