Chinese Legal Thought: Overview

Jérôme Bourgon (2020), Chinese Legal Thought: Overview. In: Sellers M., Kirste S. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. Springer, Dordrecht.

For most of the last century, Chinese Legal thought was not a topic of interest. If Chinese thought there was, it was “Confucian,” and therefore opposed to any kind of legal normativity. “Ni Dieu, Ni Loi” (No God, No Law) was the double negation concluding Marcel Granet’s La pensée chinoise, likely the most elaborate and influential work on Chinese thought for the Francophone readership (Granet 1934). In a civilization entirely deprived of transcendence, that is submission to a superior and abstract norm, Granet contended, social life was a matter of congruence and of suitability to rules of propriety immanent in a static social order. When Escarra, an admirer of Granet and first rank Civil Law expert, attempted the first general description of Chinese Law, he considered it to be “not different from morals, and merely consisting in the enforcement of this morals” – in other words, deprived of any specifically legal (or juridical) quality (Escarra 1936). Meanwhile, the general...

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