Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2001
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Fuyo Professor of Japanese Law and Legal Institutions, Law School, Columbia University
Law and the Transformation of East Asia: Redesigning States, Markets, and Communities for Life after High Growth

The role of law in the formation and performance of economic and social organizations has never been a more pressing and controversial topic than it is today. The Asian financial crisis and the intensification of global market competition have spawned a critical examination of how the quality of legal institutions shapes differences in corporate and capital market structure from country to country. At the same time, domestic legal institutions are under tremendous pressure from global forces, leading to a dynamic tension with the potential to transform many societies. Nowhere are these tensions more palpable than in East Asia, which experienced high economic growth on a model that eschewed extensive resort to formal legal institutions. Today, however, major realms of political, social and economic life are being redesigned-sometimes through broad political consensus, at other times due to external pressures-to address economic deceleration, rapid internationalization, and enhanced concern for "civil society" featuring greater citizen participation and less direction by the state. Legal reform is an important tool in this process. My project is to examine the evolving role of law in this transformation of the three most significant market economies in East Asia: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The working hypothesis to be tested is that law-which played an important, but background role in the development of these countries-is moving to the foreground (at times with unanticipated consequences) in the attempt to meet the challenges posed by economic and social change in a global environment.