Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Cheesman on the Rule of Law & Burma

In 2016, Nick Cheesman, Australian National University published "Rule-of-law Lineages in Colonial and Early Post-colonial Burma" in Modern Asian Studies 50:2, 564-601. Here is the abstract:
These days the rule of law is often invoked in Burma. Although its contemporary
salience is partly a consequence of recent global trends, the rule of law also has
lineages in the country’s colonial and early post-colonial periods. To examine
these lineages, this article distinguishes between its procedural and substantive
conceptions. Whereas the latter conception recognizes the subjects of law as
freely associating equals, the former is compatible with a range of political
practices, including those that are undemocratic. The records of decisions in
criminal cases before Burma’s superior courts during the period of British
domination suggest that some semblance of procedural rule of law did exist, and
that it was compatible with the rule of colonial difference. Out of this procedural
rule of law a nascent, substantive type emerged during the early years of
democratic life in the post-colony, before the onset of military dictatorship. The
article concludes that more effort to structure interpretations of the rule of law in
history might better enable discussion about the concept’s continued relevance.