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President' Message

Create A New Chapter of the Law and Society Movement

The world in the early 21st century has witnessed a significant transformation in terms of social differentiation and re-organization.  The relationship between law and society has never been so important an issue, nor has it been so elusive for human beings to grasp as it is today.

Under the impact of the tide of the globalization, traditional boundaries have been blurred, and the modern rule of law premised on the nation-state has confronted serious challenge.  Risks of various kinds have ever increased, prodding governments to adopt reactive, adaptive and even exceptional modes of governance.  It seems that all have melt into liquidity, and unpredictable chaos has prevailed everywhere.  From another perspective, however, certain principles of the constitution of the order have survived and persevered.  Both the paradigm of modernity and the traditional culture have continued to move along the established orbit.  In particular, local knowledge and situational thought have, to a considerable extent, continued to determine people's ways of behavior.  Furthermore, as a reaction and counteraction against the globalization, localized identity has been emphasized, gained ground and begun to prosper.  In sum, a very complex situation has emerged around the relationship between law and society, which has yet awaited our identification, cognition, and interpretation.

Such a time has certainly rendered the law and society scholarship, characterized by its interdisciplinary study and the multitude of its research methods and cognitive framework, more useful and productive.  It has been one of the fundamental missions of the current law and society scholarship to accurately describe the reality of such complicated, unfathomable relationships and interactions, and, based on such a description, to appropriately decide the directions and the corresponding measures of the institutional reform.  With this vision, China Institute for Socio-Legal Studies, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, as an attempt, through the diversified academic perspectives and analysis methods, to react upon the unprecedented structural shift of the world and the ever more complicated, mobilized and networked framework of law and society.

In the United States in the mid-20th century, alongside the all-rounded implementation of the New Deal, emerged a splendid intellectual movement that crossed the traditional boundaries both of academic disciplines and of nations.  It was named the "Law and Society Movement".  From behavioral science, through structural functionalism and system theory, to cultural interpretation, the research paradigm of this movement has always been in evolution and development.  Yet the basic tenets have remained two: one has stressed the scientific knowledge of the legal phenomenon, and the other has focused on the promotion of social transformation and development by using law as an instrument.  On the one hand, these research activities, though disagreeing within themselves in connection with such issues as value neutrality etc, have nevertheless, by aiming at discovery of the truth and verification of the functions, identified opportunities for reforms and provided objective, intellectual pre-conditions for them.  On the other hand, the various problems and questions discovered in and posed by the reformation process have in their turn furnished incentives toward new academic activities and promoted the progress of knowledge.  The very co-existence, interaction and appropriate balance between these two trends have brought extraordinary vigor and momentum to the Law and Society Movement.

The Institute will highlight "law in the risk society" and  "judiciary justice" as its two major focuses. Needless to say, such a focus will not preclude our exploration on the evolution of the law and the society from viewpoints of law and economics, Critical Legal Studies, law and culture, etc.  We will not take anything as an unquestionable precondition in terms of objects, methods or ways of research; we will persistently adhere to the academic principles of comprehensiveness and freedom of thought.

I am strongly committed to the future that, one day, our Institute will become a nation-wide interdisciplinary research platform on topics of rules and orders, a broadcasting outlet of the voice of China's legal academia to the world, a window through which other countries can understand the realities of China's law and its social development, and, last but not least, a public forum for people between different departmental laws, between law and other social sciences, and between academics and practitioners to freely exchange their thoughts and information.  We stand locally, but we think globally.

Ji Weidong