Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The study of the relationship between law and economic development goes back at least to the nineteenth century. It is a question that attracted the attention of classical thinkers like Marx and Weber. And there were some early efforts to craft policy in this area; for example, under the Raj, some English Utilitarians tried to put Jeremy Bentham’s ideas about law and economic progress into practice in India. But it was only after World War II that systematic and organized efforts to reform legal systems became part of the practice of international development agencies.

Initially, development agencies turned to law as an instrument for state policy aimed at generating economic growth. Starting in the 1980s, interest in the role of law in economic development grew, but it was an interest in law more as a framework for market activity than as an instrument of state power. This book argues that, starting in the mid-1990s, development practitioners approached law in a fundamentally new way – as a correction for market failures and as a constitutive part of “development” itself. As a result, “the rule of law” has become significant not only as a tool of development policy, but as an objective for development policy in its own right.

This book charts the history of this growing interest in the legal field, explores the shifting rationales behind development policy initiatives, and explores in detail the newest – and most surprising – of these rationales. To do that, we trace the history of a body of ideas about law and economic development that have been employed not just by academics but also by development practitioners responsible for allocating funds and designing projects. In this introduction, we refer to that body of ideas as law and development doctrine. Although this doctrine has academic roots in economic and legal theory, it is a practical working tool of development agencies.

Publication Citation

Introduction in The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal (Alvaro Santos & David M. Trubek eds., New York: Cambridge University Press 2006).