Law and Civil Society in Asia

Subject 730-360 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable


Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: One 3-hour lecture/seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: 144 hours

Legal Method and Reasoning; Principles of Public Law; Torts; Legal Theory or in each case their equivalents.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Assoc Prof Sarah Biddulph, Dr Amanda Whiting
Subject Overview:

This subject analyses the concept of civil society as it relates to the legal systems of states in Northeast and Southeast Asia. This subject introduces and then critiques the concept of civil society and its applicability in contemporary Asian states.

This subject gives students an opportunity to develop a critical appreciation of the concept of civil society and how it is understood and experienced in some of the states in the Asian region. States selected for analysis may include: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Japan. Other Asian jurisdictions may also be examined.

This subject will then consider this concept with reference to the themes of gender relations; citizenship and its boundaries; technologies of political communications; the functions of court systems; labour organisations; professional organisations such as lawyers' and bar associations; and other civil society organisations.

Note: The essay in this subject is regarded as a substantial piece of legal writing.


After completing this subject students should be able to:

1. describe the historical development of, and current ideas about, civil society in the Western political tradition;

2. evaluate the applicability of differing ideas about civil society in contemporary Asian societies;

3. discuss critically the extent to which the concept of civil society has utility in studying transformation in Asian states;

4. describe and analyse the legal constructions and changing roles of civil society organisations in Asia – in particular organisations promoting civic engagement; the mass media; organisations to protect and promote the interests of workers; and legal professional associations.

5. understand and describe the ways in which state law reflects social issues, implements policy and orders the activities of, and relations between, individuals, civil society organisations and the state in Asian jurisdictions studied in this course.

6. demonstrate a capacity to locate and critically evaluate laws regulating civil society and civil society organisations; and

7. demonstrate a capacity to locate and critically evaluate materials about, and also generated by, civil society organisations in Asia.


Research essay of 5000 words, 100% (due first day of the examination period) OR final examination of three hours, 100%.

Prescribed Texts: Printed materials will be issued by Melbourne Law School
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • attitudes towards knowledge that include valuing truth, openness to new ideas and ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage
  • the capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of sources
  • the capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection
  • the capacity to solve problems, including through the collection and evaluation of information
  • the capacity to communicate, both orally and in writing
  • the capacity to plan and manage time
  • the capacity to participate as a member of a team
  • intercultural sensitivity and understanding

In addition, on completion of the subject, students should have developed the following skills specific to the discipline of law:

  • to locate, evaluate and use the legal (primary and secondary source) materials of foreign jurisdictions (in English);
  • analyse the social and political issues facing cultures and make a critical and informed evaluation of the legal solutions offered in those cultures;
  • effectively communicate their research conclusions both orally (in class discussion) and in writing.

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