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Vol 21 No 9 Sept/Oct 2016

Book of the Month

Cover of Goode on Commercial Law

Goode on Commercial Law

Edited by: Ewan McKendrick
Price: £170.00

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Social Power and Legal Culture

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Melissa MacauleyNorthwestern University, Illinois

ISBN13: 9780804731355
ISBN: 0804731357
Published: March 1999
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Format: Hardback
Price: £54.95

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Asserting that litigation in late imperial China was a form of documentary warfare, this book offers a social analysis of the men who composed legal documents for commoners and elites alike. Litigation masters a broad category of legal facilitators ranging from professional plaintmasters to simple but literate men to whom people turned for assistance emerge in this study as central players in many of the most scandalous cases in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China. These cases reveal the power of scandal to shape entire categories of law in the popular and official imaginations.;The author characterizes litigation masters as entrepreneurs of power, intermediaries who typically emerge in the process of limited state expansion to provide links between local interests and the infrastructure of the state. These powermongers routinely acted in the interests of the local elite and the male lineage. But cases preserved in criminal archives also reveal a clientele surprisingly composed of the subordinate actors in legal disputes widows fighting in-laws and other men, debtors contesting creditors, younger brothers disputing older ones, and common people charging the rich. Challenging earlier scholarship claiming that the Chinese legal system simply maintained the hegemony of elites and the patriarchal order, this study shows how the legal tools of domination were often transformed into weapons of social resistance and revenge.

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Introduction: legal culture and historical change; 2. Statecraft legalism and administrative despair; 3. Mechanics of litigation mastery: who, where, how; 4. A clientele empowered; 5. The disputation of the body snatchers: judicial depravity and legal culture; 6. Entrepreneurs of power: land, lineage, and litigation mastery on the Southeast coast; 7. Trickster tales: cunning power and the invocation of an alternative male ideal; Conclusion: 'lawyer' bashing and litigation loathing; Appendix; Notes; References; Index.