Symposium: The Future of Law and Development, Part III

Davis, Kevin,Feibelman, Adam,Tamanaha, Brian Z.,Kaneko, Yuka | November 22, 2009

I would like to take up Anna Gelpern’s invitation to define the study of Law and Development broadly and to reject the presumption that the inquiry will focus narrowly on the law-related projects of bilateral aid agencies and international organizations. I am interested in the relationship between law on the one hand and, on the other hand, development (however defined), and it is not clear to me that externally directed “Law and Development” projects are always central to understanding that relationship. (Isn’t that a reasonable inference to draw from all of the studies that question the impact of those projects?) Don’t get me wrong, I think it is often crucially important to take foreign actors into account when trying to understand where the “law” part of the equation comes from, as well as what factors besides law might be influencing development. But I am skeptical of the notion that foreign actors are always central to the story, especially in some of the larger developing countries; do we really understand the legal systems of Brazil, India, and China best by focusing on the components influenced by the World Bank and the IMF? As far as the future of Law and Development is concerned, I believe that it will and should involve becoming even more of a social science. I also believe, however, that the contributions to this Symposium have identified many of the pitfalls that lie in that direction. To begin with, there are obviously methodological questions about what empirical methods are best suited to uncovering the kinds of causal relationships between law and social outcomes we are looking for and theoretical questions about what legal and social variables ought to be measured. But I think that there are even more profound questions to be asked about the entire enterprise, especially if the purpose is to give policymakers insights into “what works.”