Leigh Jenco


In this article, I point out some limitations of Michael Dowdle's "listening" model, particularly its basis in the "principle of charity." I try to show that listening, as well as the principle of charity, are inadvertently passive and one-sided exercises that seem to have little similarity to the deeply self-transformative "learning" Dowdle urges us to undertake. I go on to suggest other ways of accomplishing the goals Dowdle sets for this project. Specifically, I develop the "self-reflexive approach" to think about how we might change ourselves—our conversations, our terms, our concerns—in addition to, and in the process of, learning from others. I argue that we must go beyond an expansion of the term constitutionalism, to consider its replacement: the Chinese conversation is not a case study that exhibits features predictable by already-existing (and largely Western-centric) models of legal understanding, but stands as itself an important source of sociopolitical theory that can contribute to solving larger puzzles within political- and social-scientific analysis more generally, including democratic theory and Chinese politics.