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Authoritarian Rule of Law
Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore

$36.99 (P)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

  • Date Published: April 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107634169

$ 36.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Scholars have generally assumed that authoritarianism and rule of law are mutually incompatible. Convinced that free markets and rule of law must tip authoritarian societies in a liberal direction, nearly all studies of law and contemporary politics have neglected that improbable coupling: authoritarian rule of law. Through a focus on Singapore, this book presents an analysis of authoritarian legalism. It shows how prosperity, public discourse, and a rigorous observance of legal procedure have enabled a reconfigured rule of law such that liberal form encases illiberal content. Institutions and process at the bedrock of rule of law and liberal democracy become tools to constrain dissent while augmenting discretionary political power – even as the national and international legitimacy of the state is secured. With China seeing lessons to be learned in Singapore, as do any number of regimes looking to replicate Singapore's pairing of prosperity and social control, this book offers a valuable and original contribution to understanding the complexities of law, language, and legitimacy in our time.

    • The first study of how political liberalism can be systematically dismantled such that a nation might be lauded the world over as rule of law even as basic legal freedoms are eroded
    • The first close and sustained analysis - spanning 50 years - of the political processes
    • The first application of discourse analysis to penetrate deeply into the ideological techniques and effects of authoritarian assaults on liberal institutions of rule of law
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "In this superb volume, Rajah crafts the best account to date of ways political liberalism can be systematically dismantled in the name of the rule of law. By tracing key moments in Singapore's history since independence, Rajah brilliantly reveals how political discourse and dramatic public performance can be manipulated by an urbane authoritarian state to cow vocal lawyers, to intimidate civil society, and to limit basic legal freedoms. Rajah convinces us that there exists a new form of illiberal political order - the authoritarian rule of law. This theoretically innovative, empirically compelling, and gracefully written book not only speaks eloquently to scholarly audiences, but it has far-reaching consequences for national leaders who seek "third ways" in which economic development is partitioned from political liberalism."
    - Terence C. Halliday
    Research Professor, American Bar Foundation; Co-Director, Center on Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation and University of Illinois College of Law

    "Authoritarian Rule of Law spans the period from colonization to the present, using a series of case studies to provide a sweeping as well as detailed and textured portrait of the rule of law in Singapore. Rajah reveals how the state has adeptly utilized narratives about its common law legal tradition, its vulnerable status (as a multi-ethnic city-state with limited natural resources), and its exceptional economic success, to make strong claims to legitimacy based upon the rule of law. This fascinating book exposes a rarely seen side to the rule of law, acknowledging its benefits while also showing its potential for abuse."
    - Brian Z. Tamanaha
    William Gardiner Hammond Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107634169
    • length: 368 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Law, illiberalism, and the Singapore case
    2. Law as discourse: theoretical and definitional parameters
    3. Punishing bodies, securing the nation:
    1966 Vandalism Act
    4. Policing the press: the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act
    5. Policing lawyers and constraining citizenship: Legal Profession (Am't) Act 1986
    6. Policing religion: Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act
    7. Entrenching illiberalism: the 2009 Public Order Act
    8. Legislation, illiberalism and legitimacy.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Judging Politics: Comparative Courts and Law
  • Author

    Jothie Rajah, American Bar Foundation
    Jothie Rajah is Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, Chicago. She obtained her Ph.D. at the Melbourne Law School, Australia, where she was awarded the 2010 Harold Luntz Graduate Research Thesis Prize for achieving an overall level of excellence. She is the author of a number of articles on state management of ideological contestation through law. She has taught at the Melbourne Law School, the National University of Singapore and the Institute of Education, Singapore. Her current research focuses on global discourses on the rule of law and colonial constructions of Hindu law in the Straits Settlements.

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