Symposium: The Future of Law and Development, Part I

Ginsburg, Tom,Mehra, Salil,Pistor, Katharina,Gelpern, Anna | October 19, 2009

Welcome to the Law and Development blog symposium! We are thrilled to have a fantastic array of participants lined up and trust that the discussion will be lively. In our call for participation, we asked people to reflect on the diverse conceptions of “law and development” and to take the opportunity to think about the directions the field is headed. I would like to begin by posing three questions for consideration, though I anticipate that we may end up heading in quite different directions as well. First, as an initial question, is Law and Development really a field? In a recent paper, Brian Tamanaha argues that Law and Development is “a poorly constructed category that lacks internal coherence . . . . Law and development work is better seen, instead, as an agglomeration of projects perpetuated by motivated actors supported by funding.” Much depends, of course, on what we mean by a field. As a field of applied activity, Law and Development seems to have a clear boundary involving reform projects related to legal institutions. As a scholarly field, however, it may be less clear. On the one hand, we have two nascent journals, the Law and Development Review and the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, which is surely one sign of the institutionalization of a scholarly field. On the other hand, one might argue that there is sufficient lack of consensus on method and topic to deserve the title “field.” But if not a field, what is it?