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A much-needed account of the hierarchy of justice that defines China’s unique political-legal culture. To many outsiders, China has an image as a realm of Oriental despotism where law is at best window dressing and at worst an instrument of coercion and tyranny. In this highly original contribution to the interdisciplinary field of law and humanities, Haiyan Lee contends that this image arises from a skewed understanding of China’s political-legal culture, particularly the failure to distinguish what she calls high justice and low justice. In the Chinese legal imagination, Lee shows, justice is a vertical concept, with low justice between individuals firmly subordinated to the high justice of the state. China’s political-legal culture is marked by a mistrust of law’s powers, and as a result, it privileges substantive over procedural justice. Calling on a wide array of narratives—stories of crime and punishment, subterfuge and exposé, guilt and redemption—A Certain Justice helps us recognize the fight for justice outside the familiar arenas of liberal democracy and the rule of law.
Haiyan Lee is the Walter A. Haas Professor of the Humanities and professor of Chinese and comparative literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900–1950 and The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination.
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