June 25, 2013
by Annelise Riles
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Managing Regulatory Arbitrage: An Alternative to Harmonization

How can the Conflict of Laws achieve for international financial regulation what international agreements have so far failed to achieve? A short summary of my forthcoming paper in the Cornell International Law Journal on the subject, in Risk&Regulation Magazine, makes the case.

 

Managing Regulatory Arbitrage: an alternative to harmonization (.pdf)

June 16, 2013
by ar254@cornell.edu
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Debating the Future of Chinese Legal Thought

Beijing, China

Over the last two days I have had the privilege of participating in a fascinating conference jointly organized by my brilliant colleague Yu Xingzhong on behalf of Cornell Law School’s Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture, and Professor Gao Hongjun on behalf of the Tsinghua Law School, entitled “Comparative Law in the Globalized World: Transmigration and Innovation.” The very project of the conference represented a new level of collaboration between a US and Chinese law school–co-funded, co-organized, and featuring scholars from each in serious debate about the future of law in a globalized world. More than sixty scholars attended each day. The level of discussion was unusually high and energetic. What impressed me the most was the enthusiasm and passion for doing something new, creative, and useful among the younger generation of Chinese legal scholars.
On the second day of the conference these scholars had a fascinating debate about the future of law in China and what models to follow. The young scholars seemed to feel strongly that China needed to develop its own legal traditions instead of constantly borrowing from the West. There was real passion behind this concern and while to Western ears this may sound like inward-turning nationalism, my own initial reaction is that we should not rush to read this through our own lens but should embrace the hopefulness of this project: the desire to do something creative, original and new. All of these young people had experience studying or conducting research abroad and in fact are well-schooled in Western ideas as well.
And this last point was highlighted ironically by some other (generally although not exclusively older) scholars. They pointed out, correctly, that these young people were using Western theories (from Augustinian theology to Marxism to legal imperialism) to critique the importation of Western ideas. They stated, with equal passion and eloquence, that while they understand the desire to support China–a desire everyone who is a Chinese intellectual shares–they questioned why one needs to call an idea “Chinese” or “Western.” Why not just call it a good or bad idea and not worry so much about where it comes from? In response, some of the first group suggested that the encounter with foreign legal theories need not be a process of confrontation or cooptation but might be a process of mutual adaptation and transformation. They also pointed out that what is needed is a more equal dialogue among Chinese and Western intellectuals, rather than one in which Western intellectuals lecture Chinese scholars about the path of modernization. The second group seemed also to be subtly suggesting in response that the younger scholars, whose experience of recent Chinese history is quite different from their own, might have an overly idealistic view of the Chinese tradition.
As an American scholar, I was moved and fascinated by this conversation precisely because I have a sense that I don’t understand it fully. It does not map onto American legal dichotomies of left and right, nationalist and cosmopolitan. I am also envious of the sense of a “debate” here–there is clearly something at stake for all these scholars. To me, debates are hard to come by, and precious moments of scholarly sociality. My own impulse is to strongly resist taking sides or making judgments about this debate for the moment but to see how we as outsiders might support and enrich it as it develops.
If any friends in China or elsewhere wish to explain this conversation or give their own views, that would be fantastic!

June 12, 2013
by ar254@cornell.edu
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How can experts communicate better?

Sydney, Australia
Last night, I was invited by my friend University of Sydney Law Professor Fleur Johns to give a Sydney Ideas Lecture. I spoke for the first time about a new book, *Retooling: Professionalism for an Uncertain World,* which I am finishing with Cornell University anthropologist Hirokazu Miyazaki and University of Tokyo economist Yuji Genda. The book will be published first in Japanese, but we hope to follow with an English language edition.
The book is about what we see as a crisis in expertise of all kinds–from disaster preparedness to financial regulation to scientific research. Experts are no longer respected as they once were and, what’s worse, they no longer have faith in their own expertise. So many experts we know are just bailing out–quitting their jobs, becoming organic farmers, joining new religions, whatever. These are all strategies of denial rather than engagement though. We argue that experts can and must begin to face the fact that there is no expert manual to deal with the uncertainty in the world by “retooling” their original expertise. More about what we mean by this in the future.
What made this lecture so fun was the amazing audience of experts from every field imaginable: a scientist working on stopping influenza; a Google engineer; a telecommunications expert; a tunnel planner; a bank executive; a financial regulator; an accountant; a hedge fund manager; academics from a variety of fields. They all talked passionately and eloquently about what the crisis of expertise looks like in their fields.
One key problem that emerged from the discussion was the problem of communication–across genres of expertise (for example how do lawyers and accountants talk to one another in ways that don’t sacrifice the specificity of their disciplinary ways of thinking to some lower common denominator?) but also with non-expert publics who have expectations that experts should have firm answers?
If anyone has thoughts about this it would be great to hear from you.

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