Linguistic Landscape, Law and Reflexive Modernity

  • Christopher Mark Hutton


This chapter links the linguistic landscape, that is, the visible texts in the modern urban environment, to the evolution of law within what has been termed ‘reflexive modernity’. A major symptom of reflexive modernity is the rise of ‘managerial’ modes of governances. Law and regulation are blurred within juridification, and the citizen is positioned simultaneously as subject to rules and as the consumer of state services under a civic contract. Signage in the cityscape merges legal warnings, regulatory advice and exhortatory appeals. Law, regulation and civic responsibility are not clearly—semiotically—distinguished. These processes are illustrated using examples from Hong Kong and mainland China. In Hong Kong, the cityscape shows increasing density of regulatory signs, safety warnings and appeals to citizens to adopt appropriate modes of behaviour. In mainland China, the linguistic landscape has been semiotically softened, with similar exhortatory appeals and cartoon-like figures representing the police. The citizen is situated in this process as a consumer-partner rather than merely the subject of law’s disciplinary control. Managerial modes of governance are visible at immigration checkpoints, with the ‘traveller-consumer’ invited to evaluate the ‘service’. It is argued that there is a degree of convergence in the linguistic landscape of these two very different jurisdictions (both within the People’s Republic of China) which reflects the rise of reflexive modernity and managerial modes of governance.


Public Space Immigration Official Audit Culture Reflexive Modernity Hierarchical Norm 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnglishThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina

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