Appreciate the Difference: The Role of Different Domestic Norms in Law and Development Reform; Lessons from China and Japan

Article excerpt

Institutional models of development consider rule of law reform as one of the keys to improving the economies of developing countries. But the experiences of China and Japan indicate that advocates of this position have oversimplified the complexity of law and development reform. The author counters the view that China and Japan are "Asian exceptions" to the general rule that a Western conception of the rule of law is essential for development. Legal reforms to promote development need not embrace all the institutions that embody the ideals of liberal democracies, such as political freedom and human rights reform. Rule of law reform is effective if new legal institutions build successfully upon existing formal and informal social, political, cultural, and legal institutions.

The author begins with a "thin" conception of the rule of law that is procedural rather than substantive, and indicates how the experiences of China and Japan underscore the importance of identifying domestic institutional norms that can be used as a starting point for designing effective reforms. One of the essential elements of China and Japan's successful economic development is their adaptation of foreign conceptions of the rule of law to ensure compatibility with domestic norms and values. Their experiences suggest that some economies can function well without adopting a Western liberal democratic conception of the rule of law, and indicate the possibility of alternative approaches to development.

Les modeles institutionnels de developpement considerent la reforme de la primaute du droit comme un des elements determinants de l'amelioration de l'economie des pays en voie de developpement. Cependant, l'experience de la Chine et du Japon suggere que les partisans de cette position auraient simplifie a exces la complexite de la reforme en droit et developpement. L'auteur rejette le point de vue que la Chine et le Japon ne sont que des << exceptions asiatiques >> a la regle generale qu'une conception occidentale de la primaute du droit est essentielle au developpement. Les reformes juridiques qui favorisent le developpement ne doivent pas proner l'adoption de toutes les institutions qui incarnent les ideaux des democraties liberales, telles la liberte politique et la reforme des droits de la personne. La reforme de la primaute du droit n'est efficace que dans la mesure ou les nouvelles institutions reposent sur les institutions sociales, politiques, culturelles et juridiques existantes, aussi bien formelles qu'informelles.

L'auteur debute avec une conception <> de la primaute du droit qui est procedurale plutot que substantive. Il suggere que l'experience de la Chine et du Japon souligne a quel point il est important d'identifier des normes institutionnelles domestiques qui peuvent servir de point de depart a l'elaboration de reformes efficaces. Un des elements essentiels de la reussite du developpement economique de la Chine et du Japon est leur adaptation des conceptions etrangeres de la primaute du droit de maniere a ce qu'elles soient conformes avec les normes et les valeurs domestiques. Ceci suggere que certaines economies peuvent bien fonctionner sans toutefois adopter une conception liberale democratique et occidentale de la primaute du droit. De meme, la demarche signale la possibilite d'approches alternatives au developpement.


I.   China and Japan Are Not Exceptional Cases

II.  Is the Liberal Democratic Conception of the Rule of Law
     a Good in Itself?

III. A "Thin" Model of the Rule of Law Is Preferable to a "Thick"

IV.  Adapting the "Thin" Model of the Rule of Law to Account
     for the Compatibility Between Existing Domestic Norms
     and Proposed Reforms

     A. Institutions Are Intrinsically Normative

     B. Law Is Embedded in a Social, Cultural, and Economic Context

     C. Formal Dispute Resolution Mechanisms Are Not Necessarily
        More Effective than Informal Ones

V. …