In Search of Social Life with “No Litigation”: A Case Study of People’s Mediation in Southeastern Chongqing
There are differences in form between the people’s mediation system and traditional folk mediation. However, in terms of its scope and basis, people’s mediation has actually evolved from the traditional Chinese folk mediation system. In a changing world, grassroots farmers place demands on this form of mediation that provide it with a space for existence. At the same time, the system needs to make institutional adjustments in response to local features. On the basis of fieldwork in Southeastern Chongqing, this study analyzes the demand factors among farmers at the grassroots level from the point of view of social relations, economic capital and legal resources. Furthermore, taking the practice of the people’s mediation system in Southeastern Chongqing—the “mediation courtyard”—as an example, we analyze the application of local knowledge to people’s mediation practice at the grassroots. Our study found that under the influence of emotional factors and livelihood rationality, the villagers demand that social relations be maintained. Since the people’s mediation system accommodates this demand, it has ample room for existence in the villages. On the other hand, people’s mediation is a passive choice to which villagers are driven because of their lack of economic capital and legal resources. In response to the settlement features of mountainous areas and village social relations and systems of meaning, the people’s mediation body took institutional measures to localize mediation (the mediation courtyard), integrating the people’s mediation system into the logic of village life; but it failed to respond to the problems caused by farmers’ disadvantage in relation to economic capital and legal resources. On the basis of our research, we end with some reflections on a developmental path for national systems for the management of village society.