Legitimate Force in a Particularistic Democracy: Street Police and Outlaw Legislators in the Republic of China on Taiwan


  • Jeffrey Martin is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, and a Research Fellow in the Center for Criminology. The research on which this article is based was funded in part by the Fulbright-Hays Program, the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies, the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. It was written, in part, while Dr. Martin was in residence at Academia Sinica.


This article explores a “particularistic” concept of legitimacy important to Taiwanese democracy. This form of legitimacy, I suggest, has been instrumental for Taiwan's successful democratic consolidation in the absence of the rule of law. As evidence, I combine ethnographic observation of neighborhood police work with historical consideration of a type of political figure emergent in the process of democratic reform, which I call the “outlaw legislator.” I focus my analysis on the institutional and ideological processes articulating local policing into the wider political field. The center of these processes is a mode of popular representation that positions the outlaw legislator as a crucial hinge articulating the particularistic local order with central state powers. By analyzing the cultural content of the dramaturgical work used to reconcile low policing with higher-level state operations, this article shows how a particularistic idiom of legitimacy helps hold Taiwanese democracy together.