The illiberal legal imagination: thought experiments in China's developing the world

How do illiberals imagine the law? From Trump’s Muslim ban to tightening immigration policy in Europe, we see an embrace of notions of security and control over personal and collective liberties. Often, such laws and policies are a response to the specter of Islamic violence. Yet can the illiberal imagination generate order beyond knee-jerk reactions to threats – real or perceived? In recent years, China has embarked on its second great embrace of international law. The first – during the fall of the Qing Empire in 1911 – was a reaction to Western aggression; China was written into international law through the “unequal treaties.” A century later, an ascendant China is approaching international law on its own terms through building multi-lateral financial and security institutions. Whereas such institutions such as the “Belt and Road Initiative” are the result of political negotiations, law is also playing a role, namely international trade and investment law. Here, there is a great deal of activity and creativity (even if somewhat familiar) in response to Anglo-American precedents. The Chinese approach thus raises important questions for law and development, which has been predicated on the (neo)liberal model of law. This talk will endeavor to identify key aspects of the illiberal legal imagination and its notion of order through ethnographic sketches as thought experiments on both the “push” side of outbound Chinese and the “pull” side, in this case, the host state of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Departmental Seminar Michaelmas Term 2017

Fridays, 3.30pm, Lecture Theatre, 64 Banbury Road

Convened by Morgan Clarke and Chris Morton.


Seminar in Week 4 is replaced by the Geoffrey Harrison Prize Lecture