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Authoritarian Rule of Law (Cambridge Studies in Law and Society) [Kindle Edition]

Jothie Rajah
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

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. This book offers a valuable and original contribution to understanding the complexities of law, language and legitimacy in our time.

Editorial Reviews


"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

Book Description

Through a focus on Singapore, this book presents an analysis of authoritarian legalism, showing how prosperity, public discourse, and a rigorous observance of legal procedure enable a reconfigured rule of law - liberal form but illiberal content. It shows how institutions and process become tools to constrain dissenting citizens while protecting those in political power.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1583 KB
  • Print Length: 367 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1107012414
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (March 22, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00866GYDW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,229 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well reserched book November 1, 2012
Authoritarian Rule of Law by Jothie Rajah.

The layman may find it difficult to comprehend the "Authoritarian Rule of Law" as it is too legalistic. There are also too many footnotes which hinder reading-flow.

Nevertheless, it is judiciously researched with an impressive bibliography that is a must read for those in the legal profession or those interested in Singapore and its legal framework. Jothie's father, the late KS Rajah, was one of the better known legal minds in Singapore..

The book looks at case studies on a number of legislations and discusses academically at their relevance in relation to "rule of law" and "rule by law". The laws considered are the Vandalism Act, Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, Legal Profession (Amendment) Act, 1986 and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act.

It is beyond my pea brain to comment on her conclusions. I have, however, to defer with Jothie on the practical utility of the laws in terms of time and place. It is fine to enter into a theoretical treatise but unless one had lived through the periods of upheaval like me, when communism and communalism created chaos in the country, one will not be able to appreciate the enactment and application of these laws.

The Vandalism Act was necessary to prevent not only seditious posters being pasted all over the place but also to keep the city clean. One has to look at some countries where public and private buildings are pasted with all sorts of posters and sprayed with all forms designs and messages, what some people term as "free expression". These are not work of art but just mischievous acts of blatant vandalism.

The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act keeps Singapore safe and peaceful.
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