Symposium: The Future of Law and Development, Part V

Ohnesorge, John,Taylor, Veronica L. | January 24, 2010

There are enough questions on the table to get us going, so I’ll focus on responding to some of them. First, to an issue raised by Salil Mehra and Tom Ginsburg, I generally follow the approach taken by Trubek and Santos in The New Law and Economic Development. Their approach defines the field (“doctrine”) of Law and Development to encompass the activities of legal assistance providers, as well as the ideas about law, and about development economics, that animate their work. There are different strategies for studying the providers’ activities, and Terence Halliday and Bruce Carruthers’s research for their book, Bankrupt, provides an outstanding example of the detailed sociological work some Law and Development scholars undertake. But the academic enterprise doesn’t really seem separable from the activities of the providers. We could discuss the pros and cons of that dependence, but I do not think we can avoid it. The institutional players in the field rise and fall in importance over time, the ideologies concerning law and economics that animate their work change over time, the external environment affecting the institutions changes over time, and this complex, dynamic stew provides the academic core of Law and Development. The academic field is not merely the sum of the projects, as Tamanaha appears set to argue, but is instead the study of those projects in their political, historical, and ideological contexts. The problem this background poses for the scholar is that he or she must first figure out a level of engagement with the institutional players that will allow the scholar to understand what is actually going on inside them, and in their relations with national governments, while leaving the scholar free to provide serious academic analysis and critique. I sometimes joke that Law and Development is a field where those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know, but it is actually a serious problem for a scholarly field.