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The lure of law in development

Humphreys, Stephen (2016) The lure of law in development. Finnish Yearbook of International Law, 23. pp. 3-44. ISSN 0786-6453

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Since the Cold War ended, the world’s principal financial and development institutions have focused extensive attention on ‘rule of law assistance’ or ‘promotion’ in poor and developing countries. This body of work generally treats law in some isolation from broader social and political questions, presented as a technical exercise, recalibrating law in pursuit of undisputed universal goals, such as eradicating poverty or fulfilling human rights. In this article, I undertake a close reading of the literature of two major rule of law funders in the field of market-building — as distinct from, albeit related to, the state-building work also undertaken under this rubric at the UN and elsewhere. My aim is to show how this body of work promotes a thoroughgoing vision of a particular social and political order. Noting that the techniques of rule-of-law promotion align poorly with fundamental principles generally attributed to the rule of law, and that there is little or no evidence that this vision does — or even can — achieve its stated aims, I redescribe rule of law promotion as a kind of rhetorical intervention, a morality play concerned with the universalisation and naturalisation of certain ideas about society, polity and economy. In this essentially pedagogical role, rule of law promotion can claim some modest success.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Hart Publishing
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2015 14:44
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2021 23:14

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