Justice from Above or Justice from Below? Popular Strategies for Resolving Grievances in Rural China

China Quarterly, March 2008

41 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2006

See all articles by Ethan Michelson

Ethan Michelson

Maurer School of Law; Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology

Abstract

Research on rural conflict in China suggests that village leaders are sources of trouble and obstacles to justice and that aggrieved villagers have more trust in and receive more satisfactory redress from higher-level solutions than from local solutions. In contrast to this account of justice from above, evidence presented in this article from a 2002 survey of almost 3,000 households supports an alternative theory of justice from below. According to the theory of justice from below, the social costs associated with appealing to higher authorities, including the legal system, for help with local disputes tend both to discourage the escalation of disputes and to produce relatively disappointing experiences and outcomes when such routes are taken. Survey respondents indicated that local solutions, often with the involvement of village leaders, were far more desirable and effective than higher-level solutions.

Keywords: China, justice, rural, law

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Michelson, Ethan, Justice from Above or Justice from Below? Popular Strategies for Resolving Grievances in Rural China. China Quarterly, March 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=922072

Ethan Michelson (Contact Author)

Maurer School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.indiana.edu/~emsoc/

Indiana University Bloomington, Department of Sociology ( email )

Ballantine Hall
Bloomington, IN 47405

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