Lawyers, Political Embeddedness, and Institutional Continuity in China's Transition from Socialism
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 113, No. 2, pp. 352-414, September 2007
Posted: 8 Aug 2006
This article uses the case of Chinese lawyers, their professional troubles, and their coping strategies to build on and develop the concept of political embeddedness. Data from a first-of-its-kind 25-city survey suggest that political embeddedness, defined broadly as bureaucratic, instrumental, or affective ties to the state and its actors, helps Chinese lawyers survive their everyday difficulties, such as routine administrative interference, official rent-seeking, and police harassment and intimidation. The article draws the ironic conclusion that legal practice in China reveals at least as much about the enduring salience of socialist institutions as it does about incipient capitalist and "rule of law" institutions. Lawyers' dependence on state actors both inside and outside the judicial system preserves the value of political connections inside the very institutions that some sociologists have argued are responsible for obviating the need for such guanxi.
Keywords: China, lawyers, legal profession
JEL Classification: P20, J44, N45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation