Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 December 2018
This article explores the role of legality in conceptions of state and society among bureaucrats in the Taipei, Taiwan city government. When administrators confront the global arena, the existence of law emblematizes modernity and the ability to participate in the international system. In interactions among administrators, law is laden with impossible ideals and fraught with assumptions of hypocrisy. In dealings with people outside the government, legality often signals the breakdown of other, more valuable social norms. Far from legitimating administrative action, legality itself is legitimated by reference to the same values as other social action: it is held up to an ideal of consensus and cultural coherence and judged by its ability to fulfill obligations and nurture relationships. Law does not hegemonically structure administrators’ conceptions of state and society. Rather, it defines one aspect of governance at the margins of legitimacy, dependent on justification through other ethical norms.
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