Bar Examinations in a totalitarian state

November 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

Political Reliability and the Chinese Bar Exam

Rachel E. Stern

University of California, Berkeley – Department of Jurisprudence & Social Policy

December 2016

Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 43, Issue 4, pp. 506-533, 2016

This article uses the case of contemporary China to explore an understudied type of political socialization: the bar exam. Content analysis of 3,996 exam questions from 2002–2014 shows a turning point in the mid‐2000s, when the test became explicitly political. The newly political exam is now a site of political learning where tomorrow’s lawyers, judges, and prosecutors perform loyalty by exchanging politically correct answers for points. Viewed from this perspective, the Chinese bar exam has much in common with demands for public displays of correct behaviour in other authoritarian states. This adds a fresh, political layer to our understanding of whose interests bar exams serve, and why they take the form they do.


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