Thursday, May 15, 2014

Property Rights, Labor Rights and Democratization: Lessons From China and Experimental Authoritarians

In the last two days, the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics and Opinio Juris promoted an online symposium to discuss Professor Jedidiah J. Kroncke’s article Property Rights, Labor Rights and Democratization: Lessons From China and Experimental Authoritarians (NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, Volume 46, issue No. 1).

To start the discussion, Professor Kroncke's summarizes the main claim of the paper in the introduction to the online symposium:

"In the article I attempt to present several angles from which to think about how Chinese legal experience relates both to US law, both domestically and in the literature on legal development and democratization. As such, I try to show how US interpretations of Chinese property and labor rights reveal more about internal US legal developments than are driven by on-the-ground reality in China. More specifically, the gradual evisceration of the link between democratic norms and workplace regulation in the US has blinded many to understanding the Chinese experience on its own terms, especially to the extent that it subverts assumptions about what legal institutions are presumed constitutive of democratic governance. All of which has to be situated within global developments beyond this individual comparative dyad."

Then, the organizers of the symposium invited three law professors to comment on the paper. Here is a glimpse of two of the commentaries:

Professor John Ohnesorge: "I completely agree with Professor Kroncke that the world of law and development, both scholarship and practice, has not paid enough attention to labor, and applaud him for addressing this deficit. (...) My response to Professor Kroncke’s fascinating paper is to offer some ideas about why labor issues seem so hard for the law and development regime to take on, and to suggest a framework for further research on that topic. The first part of my response focuses on the general issue of how legal fields get on the law and development agenda, and the second part suggests why labor issues may be especially likely to be excluded when countries are pursuing development strategies associated with the “developmental state” concept, which many are now doing." (see the full response here)

Professor Eva Pils: "The overall argument is persuasive and important. It reminds us that democratic countries can deteriorate and become more authoritarian if they suppress basic rights, and it has implications for certain rule of law promotion initiatives in authoritarian systems. But I have some criticisms. First, I don’t think that the Chinese government is uniquely suppressive of labour rights activism – in fact, there is some reason to believe that labour activism fares better than evictee activism for property rights. Second, Kroncke seems to limit himself largely to observing that there is an inconsistency in the promotion of certain rights abroad without saying clearly that or by whom property, labour rights or democracy should be promoted. The paper could take a clearer position on this point. Third, Kroncke could strengthen his argument by acknowledging that Chinese civil society has long recognised the connection between political and economic liberty."(see the full response here)

Want to read more? See Professor Cynthia Estlund's commentary here and
Professor Jedidiah Kroncke's response to all commentaries here.
Want to participate in the debate? Post a comment below or send your post to Professor Kroncke has recently joined the list of permanent contributors to this blog. So, he will certainly be reading and he may even respond! 


  1. Olá professora,
    Não ha referência para o último link (comentários do professor Jedidiah).

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